Students protest in anti-war solidarity
Nov. 18, 2007 9:54 pm
Black armbands and peace signs adorned students in protest of the war in Iraq Friday at noon on the Kerckhoff lawn.
Students held banners and shouted chants in favor of peace.
Organized by students in the Environment 138 class ““ “Effective methods for social change” ““ the event encouraged students to get involved and withdraw their support from the war.
“We wanted to have a positive outlook and give the public an opportunity to express their opinions however they felt comfortable,” said Allie Gates, a second-year chemistry student.
After a moment of silence in respect for fallen soldiers, some students were moved to tears during a reading of the names of soldiers who have died in Iraq.
Christopher Montalvo, a third-year Latin Americans Studies student and Iraq war veteran, spoke at the event about his experiences in the war.
He told the audience he was lucky because he survived while almost 4,000 of his fellow Americans have died in the war.
The war was a traumatizing experience for him, he said. “During my time in Iraq, I experienced more pain and suffering then any human being ever should,” he said.
He told the story of his best friend David, whom he described as funny and outgoing. Montalvo said he watched as David died when the vehicle he was traveling in burst into flames in March 2003. Montalvo then described his overwhelming emotions when he had to call David’s mother and tell her the news.
“After being (in Iraq), I lost all senses of feeling,” he said. “And what really sucks is that I contributed to it.”
He said he remembers driving to the airport on his last day in Iraq and seeing pipes transporting oil.
“Had I given my best friend for a pipe? Had I given my best friend for $3.50 for a gallon of gas?” he said. It was then that he decided to leave the military.
Many of the protesters expressed anger for the lives of both American soldiers and Iraqi civilians that they said have been wasted needlessly for the war.
“The true enemy is not the people in Iraq, it’s what we have done to the people in Iraq,” said Jabbar Magruder, a speaker at the event and president of the Los Angeles chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Despite what protesters described as the negative aspects of war, organizers said they tried to have positive ways for students to show their opinions because often that is difficult.
“So many people are isolated because it is so easy to pretend that it is not happening, and it’s easy to get discouraged,” said April Rose Wilson, a second-year world arts and cultures student who helped organize the event.
“That’s why we wanted to send a positive message and try to stop students from being silent and let the public know young people withdraw their consent to the war.”
Organizers said they wanted to give students a chance to express themselves, whether through painting, chanting, wearing black armbands, dancing or just showing up.
“We planned the rally because a lot of people on campus feel strongly (about the war) but are not given the opportunity to show it,” Wilson said.
Organizers made an effort to show how the war affected students. There were posters that told how much the war is costing the city of Los Angeles, money that protesters said they believe could have been spent better on other programs, such as scholarships or health care.
“The war affects you in just about every area,” Gates said. “We need to take all the funds needlessly spent on the war and redirect them for better uses.”
Rosalie Hans, an international student studying world arts and cultures at UCLA for fall quarter, said she believes the United States started the war for the wrong reasons.
“The U.S. invaded for weapons of mass destruction and didn’t find any,” she said.
Organizers said they hoped this protest would lead to other events that would raise more attention and bring about change to the war.
“It’s a great opportunity to get people to come and spread awareness and start a chain of events that leads to something,” said Marketa Velehradska, a second-year social welfare student.
“It’s important for students to get involved because a lot of revolutionary changes were brought about by students. This is our future and our resources,” she said.