LEWISTON – Rachel Salloway, Sarah Sprague and Ben Linder, all Bates College students, will hop on a bus tonight headed for Washington.
Along with 44 other Bates students, they’ll ride the bus all night to take part in a mass anti-Iraq war protest Saturday on the National Mall.
Their bus will be one of five loaded with Mainers angry enough about Iraq to go to Washington.
“This trip is really important,” Salloway said. “It’s important to support our troops by wanting to bring them home, instead of thinking supporting the troops means you have to support the war.” Supporting the military “means I want them safe at home here,” she said.
Linder said he’s been opposed to the war since it started. “Now is a good time to get some momentum with a Democratic majority” in Congress, Linder said. “The more noise that people in Washington hear about this, the more likely they’ll be to listen.”
Sprague said she’s going “because this conflict has gone on for far too long with our administration ignoring the people’s voices. I want to be among the people who are shouting back.”
Bates College Chaplain Bill Blaine-Wallace helped organize the Bates bus.
“It’s full,” he said Thursday. He’s referring other students to other buses leaving Maine.
Dan Muller of Peace Action Maine said his group has four buses going to D.C. They too were full Thursday. “And a lot of people are going on their own,” Muller said.
Initially, Peace Action Maine wasn’t planning on taking buses to D.C. “But we got a number of calls from people asking us to do it. We said we probably should do one bus.” One bus led to four. “We had to cut it off at four,” Muller said. “We couldn’t coordinate more than that.”
Tonight, from 8:15 until 9, there’ll be a 45-minute send-off bus rally and send-off at the park and ride parking lot at Franklin Arterial and Marginal Way in Portland. At 9 p.m. the Portland buses will roll. The Bates bus leaves Lewiston around 10 p.m.
Interest among Mainers in actively opposing the Iraq war was larger than expected, Muller said.
“And it’s not just the number of people calling. It’s the types of people. These are Democrats, Republicans and independents. Some say they voted for Bush and ‘We don’t know what happened to this country.'”
Saturday’s rally is sponsored by the national group United for Peace and Justice. Several groups are working with it, including Win Without War. The national director of Win Without War is former U.S. Rep. Tom Andrews, D-Maine, who lives in Portland and Washington, D.C. Andrews predicted Thursday that more than 100,000 people will turn out at Saturday’s rally, a large number considering it’s the middle of winter, he said.
He offered three reasons why.
“First, we have the daily reports of the carnage out of Iraq and the frustration with that. Then there’s high expectations of a Democratic Congress, which was elected on this issue,” Andrews said. “Thirdly, we have this outrageous escalation of troops that the president has proposed, in defiance of his generals and the vast majority of the American people.”
All that is driving frustration and willingness of people “to stand up and do something about this,” Andrews said.
Organizations opposed to the war “have given up on the president and the White House,” Andrews said. “Our focus will be on Congress … and the congressional power of the purse.”
Members of Congress notice rallies like this and pay attention that people are so motivated they’re coming in person instead of picking up the phone.
On Sunday, Andrews is holding a workshop coaching citizens on how to lobby their members of Congress on Monday.
“About 1,000 people are signed up for that,” Andrews said.
Bates College “peace train” bus leave campus at 10 tonight
Peace Action Maine buses leave Portland at 9 tonight
Bus rally held from 8:15 to 9 tonight in Portland at the park and ride parking lot, Franklin Arterial and Marginal Way.
Ready for the anti-war protest. Bates College students have filled up a bus to go to Washington, D.C., and participate in a mass protest Saturday against the Iraq war. Some of the students said they want to protest to have a voice, and to support the troops by showing they want American soldiers brought home.
From left are students Sarah Sprague, Ben Linder, Brian Quarrier, Stephanie Howson, Rachel Salloway, Bates chaplain Bill Blaine-Wallace and Rose Schwab.