Students find hope amid the D.C. marchers

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Maine youth wearing images of lobsters carrying peace signs joined tens of thousands of people who marched Saturday on Washington, D.C., in an effort to end the war.

For them, the sheer mass of people held an important message: they are not alone.

“I’m not the only American who does not support Bush,” said Miki Sisco, a 20-year-old Bates College student who trekked down with a busload of student protesters.

“It was just very affirming,” said Sisco in a phone interview from the returning bus. These days, too many people suggest that opposition to the war is unAmerican, she said.

“You make the assumption that most Americans support Bush,” she said. “Not anymore.”

Buses, cars and vans headed to Washington from Maine on Friday.

Peace Action Maine planned to take four buses. Bates College took one. Other groups from across the state planned their own trips.

Students from the Lewiston school said they saw people from across the country, stretching as far away as Washington State and Colorado.

It also brought people from many backgrounds.

Bates student Rose Schwab talked to a radio reporter from the Arabic Al Jazeera network.

And Flann O’Brien, 23, of Winslow, was heartened by a “Republicans against the war” sign.

“It brought hope to me that some people on the right are against the war, also,” he said.

Students said opposition to the anti-war demonstrations seemed feeble.

Katrina Boelsma, a 21-year-old Bates student from Bethel, said she saw a small cluster making fun of the marchers.

Their sign: “Hippies Smell.”

“If that’s the best they can do, we have nothing to worry about,” she said.

The experience of marching in the middle of so many people – one student said the crowd engulfed the mall area – was surprisingly comfortable, several students said.

“I thought it was going to be claustrophobic or really overwhelming,” said Bates senior Jennifer Rasmussen. She’d never been in a large crowd.

Instead, she felt at ease.

“There was such a feeling of community,” she said. “I felt safe.”

All hope to continue their anti-war efforts when they come home.

“I think I’ve learned some things, politically,” Rasmussen said. She’d too often kept her anti-war feelings to herself.

“I’ve learned you need to take a stand,” she said. “Fight for what you believe in.”

Schwab agreed.

“I think it riled some people up and gave people a lot of hope,” she said.

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