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Students travel to D.C. for war protest

Sonia Rao | Monday, January 29, 2007

Notre Dame students returned to campus Sunday after joining tens of thousands in Washington, D.C. to protest the Iraq war and other policies of the Bush administration. Saturday’s protest marked a “turning point in the anti-war movement,” said Michael Angulo, vice-president of Notre Dame’s Progressive Student Alliance.

“I think that everyone had a really good time and I think that the protest in general was a really good thing,” he said

Angulo organized the group of 30 students to drive to Washington on Friday for the protest, a function sponsored by the United for Peace and Justice coalition.

Junior Mike McCann said he was “a little hesitant at first” in deciding to go on the trip, not wanting “to go to something that was antagonistic.” But he said the protest didn’t have that kind of spirit.

“[It was] a message of peace and bringing home the troops … There were people of a lot of different ages and a lot of different backgrounds. It wasn’t just a bunch of hippie college kids – it was people in wheelchairs, moms pushing kids in strollers, older couples and young kids,” McCann said.

Angulo said several protesters from other countries, including Iraq and England, were present.

“[Foreign protesters] were not anti-American, just against the war like we are,” he said.

Freshman Lara Roach, who made the trip to Washington independently of the Progressive Student Alliance, described the environment as less raucous than expected.

“The atmosphere was pretty calm. A lot of people were handing out pamphlets and different newspapers … Everyone was really friendly,” she said.

Roach said actress Susan Sarandon was one of the more effective speakers at the protest.

“She humanized the whole thing, and really made you think about those people as people and not the enemy or a target,” Roach said.

As for whether the protest had an effect on policy-making, only time will tell.

“I think it’s going to take a lot for political leaders to listen, but there were a lot of Congressmen there that spoke,” Roach said. “I think that it’s really important that people did it [protested] because over time it just puts more and more pressure on [Bush] and the people in Congress.”

Angulo said he is still optimistic about America’s capacity to change.

“The core values of America are still there, but we just need to make sure they’re expressed in Congress and the White House,” he said.

McCann noted that activism in itself sends a message, no matter the issue being protested.

“If the American public just sat on their couches on Saturday then that’s just saying what [political figures] are doing is right,” he said.