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Anti-war protesters plan Fayetteville march


As talk of war heated up in 2002 and 2003, activists from around the Triangle took to the streets. Regular anti-war vigils were held in all three Triangle communities, culminating with a mass rally that drew about 7,000 people to the State Capitol on Feb. 15, 2003, to oppose a unilateral attack on Iraq.

Then the Iraq war broke out, and after a few months, the public anti-war activity hit a lull. Activists from throughout the state are hoping to get momentum back on the side of peace this Saturday when they converge on Fayetteville, home of the Army's Fort Bragg, for what they hope will be the largest anti-war gathering in that town since the Vietnam War.

The march will gather at the downtown Fayetteville Amtrak station at 11 a.m. At noon, the crowd will march about three-quarters of a mile to Rowan Park for a rally that will include about a dozen speakers, said Chuck Fager, executive director of Fayetteville's Quaker House, an organization that supports soldiers trying to get military discharges.

With speakers lined up from military families opposed to the Iraq war, Fager, who is a member of the march steering committee, said organizers are hoping to tap into what they see as growing public disapproval of a war that seems to have no end in sight.

"We want to express what we feel is a call for real support for the troops to get them out of an ugly and illegal war and get them home," Fager said, "and to see resources redirected where they ought to go, to places like jobs and education instead of wars and occupation."

The march will be led by people carrying a banner that states: "The World Still Says No To War." Fager says he hopes the march and rally will draw more than the approximately 4,000 who came to a May 17, 1970, rally in Fayetteville to hear actress Jane Fonda speak out against the Vietnam War.

For two weeks, Joe McTaggart of Garner has been hard at work painting the passenger side of a baby-blue panel truck that has come to be known as the "peace truck." One of the images McTaggart painted is of crying family members being told by Army representatives that a loved one has been killed in the war. The truck will be in Fayetteville for the march and rally.

Fager pointed to the words: "... is this war WORTH IT?" that McTaggart painted on the truck. "That's the question we're trying to reinforce, and I think it's going to be very effective," he said.

Fager admits the anti-war movement may have lost some of its focus, but he said he's confident that Saturday's event will offer people "a chance to find a focus again."

"Some people felt demoralized because they tried to stop the war, and they got discouraged," Fager said. "I'm not discouraged. We've just got to keep it up."

Wendy Michener, a Quaker who attends the Raleigh Friends Meeting, has been helping to paint banners for Saturday's protest. Michener says she hopes to see a large turnout for the rally.

"Last year we had 7,000 people," she said. "Nobody expected 7,000 people. I am feeling really positive about this whole thing."

"I love my country. As far as I'm concerned us going into Iraq is the most dangerous thing we could be doing for the sake of my country," she said.

While Fager has read some grumblings about people on the Web site wanting to disrupt the march, a spokesman with the Fayetteville Police said only one "small group" of counter-protesters has requested a permit for about 20 to 25 people in an area adjacent to Rowan Park.

Fayetteville Police Lt. Scearce said the other group would be "far away from the event itself" and that he does not expect any security problems Saturday.

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