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Peaceniks on parade 

News Hits checked out the several hundred protesters who braved bone-chilling cold last Saturday to march against the war in Iraq. The protest, organized by Rep. John Conyers’ office, began at Tiger Stadium and ended with a rally in Hart Plaza.

The goal of the protest, said Alexia Smokler, Conyers’ field representative, was “to grow the peace movement beyond its [traditional] base and to connect foreign policy with what’s going on here at home.”

In his remarks, Conyers, D-Detroit, lambasted the Bush administration and pointed out the irony that the government is spending billions of dollars to overthrow the regime in Iraq while Americans struggle with a lousy economy back home.

“On November 2, 2004, there will be the biggest regime change you have ever seen,” Conyers said to the cheers of protesters. He added, chuckling, that he’d promised his staffers that he wouldn’t mention the “I” word — impeachment.

Turnout fell far short of the organizers’ goal of 5,000; about 300 people participated in the march and were joined by another 300 or so at Hart Plaza, where they heard speeches from Conyers, Mahaffey, religious lecturer Marianne Williamson and Imam Mohamed Ali Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom. There was also live jazz and hip hop.

The tone of the rally was more festive than angry. A marcher wearing a rubber George W. mask held a motor oil bottle to his lips and staggered around as though drunk while a squad of pompon-wielding cheerleaders exhorted the crowd to forget war and dance. Marchers beat a cadence on empty buckets and hand drums and chanted “We are the peaceniks, the mighty, mighty peaceniks.”

We were curious as to why people would turn out for an event like this now, given that a political comeback by Richard Nixon will occur before Bush admits that this whole invasion thing was really a bad idea and orders the troops home.

The protesters News Hits spoke to admitted that the march wouldn’t be successful in stopping the war, but said that it was important nevertheless to voice dissent. “I want people to continue to voice their opinions, whether it’s pro or con,” said Ian Ferguson of Southfield. “Winston Churchill said that it’s treasonous to hold our tongues in a democracy.”

Nikka Pierce of Lansing agreed: “I think marches like this bring visibility to dissent. When the administration is confronted like this on a consistent basis … it does make a difference.”

Elsewhere on the anti-war front, a teach-in will be held at the University of Detroit Mercy, Saturday, April 12. Workshops will features such topics as, “Iraq and the Middle East for Beginners, “ “War on Terrorism or War on the Constitution?” “Voices and Faces of Iraq,” and more. The event will also include keynote speaker Dr. Rania Marsi, director of the Southern Peace Research and Education Center in Durham, N.C. Marci is an expert on Iraq and human rights.

Registration for the free event, being held at the university’s McNichols Campus (4001 W. McNichols at Livernois) opens at 8:30 a.m.

For more information, please call 248-548-3920.

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