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News of war interrupts spring break

By Rebekah Kleinman & Kristina Dunham
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday March 24, 2003

When classes ended March 14 for spring break, a war with Iraq was only in the back of many students' minds. But today, it could be hard for many people to think of anything else.

Wednesday night, President Bush ordered the start of a U.S. war against Iraq. Initial strikes were enacted to disarm the country, with attempts to kill Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Students who spent their spring break across the border faced additional security measures before re-entering the U.S., and although some say they were not concerned about terrorist activity at home, they feared they would not make it back to Arizona.

"I don't think people were that concerned (about the war), they were more concerned about getting into the country," said Michael Tankenoff, an undeclared freshman.

Other students opted to spend their week off rallying against the war.

Arthur Richards, an undeclared sophomore, was arrested in San Francisco for involvement in an anti-war protest where all of the more than 500 protesters were arrested.

Richards was originally in San Francisco with the UA's Alternative Spring Break program, but became involved in the protest after intersections and streets in the city were stopped by the masses of people.

"I intend to be involved in a number of acts of civil disobedience in the weeks to come," he said.

In Tucson, a visible outcry against the war is displayed on "A" Mountain. The "A," which was painted green last week in honor of St. Patrick's Day, is now black. A group called "People Against Imperialism," claimed responsibility for the action.

Below the mountain, during an anti-war protest Thursday outside the Federal building downtown, community members, including UA students, displayed strong concern for the troops and Iraqis affected by the war.

"There were a couple of different moods," said peace activist Rachel Wilson, a research technician in the Speech and Hearing Laboratory. "There was extreme despair because we had actually invaded Iraq, but also tremendous power to have us all down there."

More than 300 anti-war protesters flooded the downtown area, in addition to a few pro-war advocates, obstructing traffic and forcing more than two dozen police officers in riot gear to control the crowd.

Members of the Tucson chapter of the Poets Against the War staged a lie-in in front of the DeConcini Federal Courthouse.

Moji Agha, a member of the group, also initiated an "Around the Clock Interfaith Vigil to Stop Violence" in front of the Islamic Center of Tucson, at

East First Street and North Tyndall Avenue.

Friday evening, Agha launched a peaceful protest that he said will not cease until the war does, or "at least until the carnage stops."

Four hearts made of candles lit the sidewalk last night outside the center.

"They are a reflection of people's desire for peace," Agha said.

Already, more than 500 people have visited the vigil, he said, including UA students, community members and pro-war advocates.

"Students are paying attention to this because this is your generation's future that (is) being played with," Agha said.

Agha and three other people have slept only eight hours since the vigil began, and will continue to stay awake to ensure they speak to everyone they can about what they call an "unjust war."

The mother of a U.S. Marine attended the vigil over the weekend and spoke to participants, questioning their patriotism for not supporting American soldiers, Agha said.

"She told me, ╬We are good people because we are letting the Iraqis keep their oil,'" Agha said, adding that after speaking with the woman for half an hour, she admitted she "realized how much she doesn't know," and promised to speak with her sister, a peace activist.

"What most people don't realize is that peace is patriotic," said Tawfik Maudah, a member of the Tucson Mosque.

Despite active cries for peace across campus and the city, Scott Weller, president of the College Republicans, said students in support of a regime change in Iraq are often not as vocal for fear of being considered "war-mongers."

"Right now we're just at a critical time in our country's history. We are in support of our president and our troops," he said, adding that often, loud protests are not always the best way to get a point across.

Weller referred to a campus protest March 5 in which activists chained themselves to the handicapped railing inside the Administration building.

"It's not the most credible way to get their points across," he said. "It diminishes the credibility of the organization and its message."

Wilson, who was arrested for involvement in last week's protest downtown and the protest at the Administration building, said she and most peace activists do support the troops, and that's why they should be sent home.

"What better way to support them than protect their lives?" she said.

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