By Michael Gannon/ Norwich Bulletin / May 22, 2008
New London, Conn. -Vice President Dick Cheney drew more than 100 anti-war protesters and counterprotesters to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Wednesday as he addressed the new officers graduating in the class of 2008. Protesters marched from downtown New London to Williams Street and Mohegan Avenue outside the gates to the academy. They passed about 16 members of the Gathering of Eagles, a military group, who already had set up on the opposite corner.
The Rev. Emmett Jarrett of St. Francis House in New London, one of the organizers of the protest, said they have no quarrel with the Coast Guard or the cadets. “We preach nonviolence,” he said. “We’re here to protest more than 4,000 soldiers dead and 100,000 Iraqis dead. In recent years, (the academy has) had the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense, and the secretary of homeland security at graduations, some of the sponsors of this war.”
Jim Bancroft of Bristol said the Gathering of Eagles group was there to show cadets’ families they had support. He criticized the other group’s selection of a graduation for their protest. “You can disagree with the president all you want,” he said. “But to exercise your right of free speech by disrupting what is supposed to be a celebration is wrong, and in a time of war, which it is clear we are winning, it is giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”
“We’re here to put a stop to this madness,” protester Paul Schaffer of Norwich said. “I have nothing against the Coast Guard. I’m a Navy veteran. We’re protesting the vice president.”
Carolyn Van Zorge of New Jersey, a member of the Gathering of Eagles, compared the protesters’ march to those of the 1960s. “We believe what they are doing is hurting our troops,” she said.
Protesters Merritt Ball and his son, Eric, of Groton also compared it to the 1960s. The two said they participated in those protests.
“This is a war about money,” Merritt Ball said. Jarrett, 70, who said, “Most peaceniks are my age,” said he was impressed that many of the protesters were young. Paul Blasenheim, 19, of the Wesleyan University chapter of Connecticut Opposes the War, was one of them. “It’s not just the war,” he said. “This administration has to know that wherever they go, there are people who will be there to hold them accountable to confess their numerous crimes. I feel that is my duty as a dissenting citizen.”
Dan Maloney, who came up from Long Island to support the cadets and their families, said the protesters’ actions go beyond free speech. “In a time of war, there is a fine line between dissent and treason, and they have crossed it so many times,” he said. He cited the recent bombing of a military recruiting station in New York City as an example. [Go here for the original article.]
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