By: Kala Kachmar, The Daily Campus, June 11, 2007
NEW LONDON - Approximately 500 people of all ages - including many college students - protested the Iraq war outside of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy while President Bush delivered the school's commencement speech on May 23.
Connecticut peace organizations, all under the umbrella organization Connecticut Opposes the War (COW), as well as several out-of-state anti-war groups, lined the streets to the Academy with signs, posters, flyers and even a group of people dressed as President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and ex-Secretary of Defense Ronald Rumsfeld in jail uniforms and shackles.
A group of about 50 people who supported the war stood on the opposite side of the street and protested the anti-war protesters, each shouting back and forth through megaphones. The group was mostly veterans and members of pro-war groups like Rolling Thunder, Gathering of the Eagles and the American Legion.
There were, however, five students from Stonington High School who supported the war.
"People don't understand that there are some young people out there that support the war," said Jon Conradi, a senior at Stonington High School. "What's popular isn't necessarily what's right."
"The [anti-war] protest is wrong and disrespectful to the president, regardless of what he's doing," he said. "This just shows that the country is duped by liberal media and that the 'I hate George Bush' culture is a popular fad."
The UConn Billionaires Society and the UConn Free Press were represented on the anti-war side at the protest.
"The troops really need to come home," said Jason Ortiz, a 2nd-semester political science and communication sciences double major, who is a member of the groups Act Now and Stop War to End Racism (ANSWER), Idealist United and the UConn Free Press. "The president should be held for criminal charges."
Shawn Logue, who graduated from UConn in 2006, attended the protest to send a message to President Bush.
"I do not support the war," Logue said. "I'm also here to send a message to Democrats and Republicans who recently played a role in backing out of having guidelines to end the war."
Logue was also a field organizer for Ned Lamont, a former candidate who ran against Joe Lieberman and Alan Schlesinger for the U.S. Senate in the 2006 elections.
"I'm exercising my freedom to protest," said Josh Sawicki of Farmington, who came with the organization COW. "I'm upset about the way things are going with the war."
Students who recently graduated from Connecticut College, located across the street from the Coast Guard Academy, wore their caps and gowns to the protest.
"It was definitely worth coming up here today, especially since a lot of people think that students don't care about politics," said Brenna Muller, a recent graduate of Connecticut College who has spent the last four years opposed to the war.
Another recent Connecticut College graduate at the protest, Cornelius Hardenbergh, also protested President Bush's 2005 inauguration in Washington D.C.
"The Democratic party has its own set of problems," he said "But there are a lot of things going on within the Bush administration that I don't like."
Students from Eastern Connecticut State University, Liberty University and Three Rivers Community College and others were at the protest.
"Students do care about this country and about the war," Ortiz said. "I think that all of us being out here today really showed that."