A group of Southern Illinoisans who are against the idea of war with Iraq, found plenty of like-minded company in Washington D.C. last weekend. Around 45 people from the Carbondale area joined hundreds of thousands of other protestors in the nation's capitol last Saturday. The local demonstrators braved a 17-hour bus ride both to and from Washington, not to mention hours of walking in the bitter cold, all in the name of peace. On Friday night, the group gathered at the Interfaith Center in Carbondale, to look at videos of their trip, and to reflect on the big event that they were a part of.
Their reasons for getting on the bus to Washington had been as varied as the group of protestors who made the trip. "Beyond the fact that innocent people are going to die in any war, there really hasn't been enough proof that Iraq is a threat", said SIU student Marc Torney, when asked his reason for going. Beth Koehler is an SIU graduate, and also two months away from becoming a mother. "I don't want to bring my child into the world if I haven't put any effort to change it", she told Heartland News about why she made the journey. "That was a driving force for me, that I'm going to have a child soon."
At twelve years old, Cami Benford-Miller is still just a child herself. But young Cami had something to protest too. "I went on that bus because I know people my age and younger even could be dying in Iraq over oil and over Bush's stupid war", she declared.
Benford-Miller may have been one of the youngest protestors at the Capitol, but she certainly wasn't the only one who got her first taste of a national demonstration. "It was my first protest", admitted Koehler. She said the event surpassed her expectations. "I'd always pictured a protest would be full of activists and radicals and hippies, but it wasn't. It was just all kinds of people, from all walks of life& families marching and kids marching& so it was much different than I expected it to be." Torney said he was also impressed. "The thing that struck me the most was really the mood of the crowd", he recalled. "There was no anger; there was just happiness. It was just people wanting to come out and express democracy as they see it, and express justice as they see it."
Torney and the others say that's the privilege of being an American. Even if the national demonstration doesn't divert a war, they're glad to know they exercised their right to protest. "It was a good sense of accomplishment that we could show there are 500-thousand people in Washington who are willing to come out and stand in the freezing cold and say we don't support this", says Torney. "I hope it encourages other people to be able to get out on the street and say something", adds Koehler. "I really feel like it's opened that up for now, even if it doesn't change anything."