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Mother Protests For Her Son's Return

Mothers Against The War And Latinos Against The War Rally For Peace At The Capitol

By A. LE'VAR TAYLOR, Courant Staff Writer

July 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE HARTFORD COURANT. All rights reserved.

It's been 16 months since Maria Santiago has heard from her son, who is serving in Iraq. On Wednesday, she stood silently at the state Capitol clutching a portrait of him at an antiwar rally.

Santiago, a member of the group Mothers Against the War, was flown from Puerto Rico by Latinos Against the War to attend the rally in Hartford, one of several events organized by antiwar groups on the supposed day of the transfer of power by the United States to the Iraqi interim government.

Protesters, some of whom marched from Pope Park, convened on the Capitol Street side of the Capitol to listen to songs and speakers, and be heard by anyone who would listen.

Santiago's son, whom she declined to identify for protective reasons, is in an infantry battalion and is being kept in Iraq to conserve money, Santiago said. Latinos Against the War raised money at a meeting two weeks ago to bring Santiago and another member of Mothers Against the War to Hartford.

"What they're doing to the horror of the families and the soldiers themselves," Santiago said, "is keeping them there indefinitely under horrible conditions."

Meg Scata, a member of Connecticut United for Peace, helped organize the Capitol rally. An elementary school librarian from Portland, she feels that the U.S. military is going to run out of bodies to fight the war.

"They didn't get the help that they were looking for from NATO and the European nations, they were turned away again," Scata said. "We're in serious trouble in Iraq in terms of handing over the government. It's a sham."

Scata said the rally was to increase public awareness about the war and not to persuade people to make a decision in the presidential election. Nevertheless, throughout the crowd, people wore "No Bush" buttons and held signs with similar statements. Many blamed the war on President George W. Bush, indicating that he had personal interests in the Persian Gulf.

"This is a beginning and not an end," Scata said. "We hope to get people out to vote but it's not just about November; it's about taking back this country from American corporations and the rich and powerful that run it."

Andrew Cvercko, a member of the Progressive Student Alliance at Central Connecticut State University, believes there should be a transfer of power in Iraq, but doesn't see it happening as long as troops are still being deployed.

"I don't believe in a war based on oil or on finishing Bush's father's business," Cvercko said. "I don't think that death is necessary on both sides and I'm just opposed to the war in general."

Members of the Greater Hartford chapter of the Connecticut Coalition for Peace and Justice supported the rally by standing at the entrances of I-91 and I-84. They dressed in white and held banners and doves made of cardboard and painted white.

Member John Calandrillo said the organization's strategy was to make motorists aware of the rally and get them involved in the antiwar efforts.

"My hope," Calandrillo said, "was that at the water cooler and the coffee pot, somebody is going to say, `Hey, I saw this strange thing, there were these people dressed in white and they had doves and they were talking about bringing our troops home from Iraq.'"

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