Teens protest against Iraq war

Protesters rally against the Iraq war at the corner of Wright and Green streets on Saturday. Erica Magda

Protesters rally against the Iraq war at the corner of Wright and Green streets on Saturday. Erica Magda

By Paolo Cisneros

Students taking their moms on a tour of campus Saturday got an earful as they walked past the intersection of Green and Wright streets.

More than 20 antiwar protesters stood on the four corners of the intersection shouting antiwar slogans before lying down in the middle of the street and staging a “die-in” protest whenever the traffic lights turned red.

Similar protests took place on campus last fall and again earlier in the spring, but this time around, the organizers of the event were not University students, and many were not even old enough to vote.

The protest was organized by the Youth Awareness Project-Champaign-Urbana, a group comprised of area high school students whose goal is to inform other students about issues such as war, poverty and social justice.

“We’re here to show that not all high school students are apathetic,” said Cody Bralts, sophomore at Urbana High School. “We have to make the youth aware of the issues surrounding this war.”

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Students from Centennial High School, Central High School, University High School and Urbana High School are all represented in the group.

Members of the Campus Antiwar Network and other unaffiliated University students braved the rain to support the project over the course of the afternoon.

“We’ve come to show solidarity for their cause,” said Jeremy Polacek, senior in LAS. “We’re delighted that we can assist them.”

Pete Rhomberg, sophomore in LAS, said activism at the high school level is important for the antiwar cause.

“In recent years, the antiwar movement has gone through its ups and downs, but now high school students are becoming more and more active,” he said. “It’s important they get involved.”

Bralts, who helped found Youth Awareness Project-Champaign-Urbana, said the group appreciated the support of the Campus Antiwar Network.

“If we want to make events like this work, it’s important that we work with these other groups,” he said. “We have to be working toward building a coalition.”

Kathy White of Urbana happened to be walking by the protest and stopped to thank the students involved. Mobilizing the younger generation is important to ending the war, she said.

“If they keep this war going, they’re the ones that will be in there,” she said. “If I were a little younger, I’d be laying down with them.”

Bralts said the protest was the Youth Awareness Project-Champaign-Urbana’s first major demonstration, and the group itself has only existed for about a month.

Organizers said the event started at 1 p.m. and was scheduled to end at 3 p.m. As of 3 p.m., however, the protest continued.

Bralts said the positive support the group received in the form of kind words from passersby and honks from passing drivers enticed them to go on.

“At every protest I’ve been to, (negative responses) have been dwindling,” he said.