Protesters condemn troop increase in Iraq

By Sky Opila

President Bush’s public address Wednesday night launched protests across the country, including more than 487 protests sponsored by the activist organization MoveOn.org, which aimed to demonstrate displeasure with Bush’s plan to escalate the efforts in Iraq.

One such protest took place at the Champaign County Courthouse Veterans Memorial, 101 E. Main St., in Urbana Thursday night. Roughly 30 people, many of whom are residents of the Champaign-Urbana area, assembled and held signs protesting Bush’s public announcement of his plans to send more troops in support of efforts in Iraq.

“There are hundreds of events happening across the country like this event today,” said Robert Naiman, national coordinator for Just Foreign Policy, an independent and non-partisan mass-membership organization dedicated to U.S. foreign policy.

Naiman said these events are trying to call on Congress to stop this decision by Bush.

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    “I don’t expect this to accomplish very much at all, except that it expresses the overwhelming objections that people appear to have against this operation,” said Ralph Langenheim, a Champaign County board member.

    On Thursday, Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Ill., sent out a press release that expressed his opposition to the effort being put forth by Bush with regards to the war in Iraq.

    “I do not support a build-up of 21,500 American troops in Iraq because, in my view, it is not in the best interest of our country to contribute additional troops to this war,” Johnson said in the release. “The people of America and, most importantly, the 15th District made their collective voices heard Nov. 7.”

    Protesters were outraged over Bush’s speech because of the clear cut opposition in a majority of polls across the nation and a local referendum in Champaign County that voted on Nov. 7 to remove troops from Iraq.

    Tim Grider, employee of the Veterans Administration for five years, drove 60 miles from his home in Indiana to attend the protest in Urbana.

    “It’s the one small thing that I can do to voice and show my opposition,” said Grider. “For every one person that’s standing here, there is probably another 1,000 that want to be here.”

    Naiman said he put the protest together in hopes of raising awareness with community members and pleading with them to contact their representative about stopping the escalation in Iraq.

    “Our goal is to remind our representative and our senators that we are deeply and passionately opposed to the President’s policy, deeply and passionatly opposed to the war … and we want Congress to take responsibility to stop the escalation,” Naiman said.