J.C. war protesters join worldwide peace vigil

By Julie Fann
star staff

JOHNSON CITY -- A small crowd of war protesters gathered here Sunday evening, mirroring an outpouring of dissent expressed during candlelight peace vigils held world-wide last night by those who oppose a U.S.-led war against Iraq.
   "I think a war will only incite more terrorism. It's just a really scary situation, and I just wish that it could be resolved peacefully," said Dottie Seek, one of the organizers of the event and a member of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, a ministry of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Johnson City.
   Approximately 50 people attended the event that lasted a half hour. Individuals from various backgrounds and churches stood at dusk near the busy interesection of State of Franklin Road and West Market Street holding candles in the March breeze.
   In December, Seeks' organization launched a peace rally that inadvertently led to other members of the community participating. Participators have gathered every Sunday afternoon from 1 to 2 p.m. since early December to protest the war. Seeks was careful to remind the public that protesters aren't unpatriotic.
   "People think that by doing this we are against our troops, and we're not against our troops, we would just like this to be resolved peacefully, that's all," Seek said. Besides leading to more terrorism, Seek believes America could not rebound from the cost of a war against Iraq.
   "I just feel they haven't given the inspections enough time," she said.
   Shirley Cecconi, a native of Hawaii whose husband is Italian, used the Cold War as an example of a militant stand-off that proves the U.S. can hold out with a country as small as Iraq.
   "We 'contained' the Soviet Union for how many years? - and they were a much bigger threat than Iraq is - by diplomacy, by force, but not pre-emptive force. Why can't we do it this time?" she said.
   The greatest concern protesters had is of the enormous loss of innocent life that will occur during the war; something they feel, in this situation, could be prevented. Cecconi mentioned the women, children, and the elderly who will be killed while Saddam, she said, hides out underground, away from troops.
   Thirteen-year-old Alyssa Shedlarski said that she fears for the future of her generation if the U.S. goes to war and Steffanie Chapman, 12, spoke of relatives she has who live in Kuwait City. Should her family receive word that her aunts and uncles have been killed, she doesn't know how they will tell their children who live here in the U.S.
   "I don't want to go to war. It's going to have a bad effect on everyone," she said.
   People rallied worldwide over the weekend, drawing very large crowds in cities such as Washington, D.C., Frankfort, Germany, and at U.S. embassies in Greece and Cyprus. They also took to the streets throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
   Protest organizers in D.C. estimated the crowd was in the tens of thousands in that city, smaller than some previous demonstrations in the capital against war with Iraq, in part because the date was changed and people had less time to prepare.
   With some 250,000 soldiers, aviators, and sailors deployed against Iraq, many at the Washington rally also emphasized that they - like those who support a war - were thinking of the troops' well-being.
   Ferris Donoso, of Rockport, Maine, carried a sign reading, "Support Our Troops. Bring Them Home."