Students Express Anti-War Sentiments at Rally

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Over 100 UC Berkeley students rallied on Sproul Plaza yesterday to oppose war with Iraq.

"It's a great way of interjecting democracy and a free exchange of ideas on campus in a period right now where there's not a lot of anti-war sentiment coming from the dominant media," said Snehal Shingavi, a member of the International Socialist Organization. "These demonstrations are important because it shows people on campus that there are other students opposed to the war."

Police estimated 125 people attended the rally, although a statement from Berkeley Stop the War Coalition said "thousands" would be present.

Some students expressed their anti-war sentiment through signs reading "UC Berkeley students say no to war," and "No War for Big Oil." Shingavi also led students in chanting "Stop the war on Iraq."

Speakers at the rally included Rula Khalafawi, who worked in Iraq with the United Nations, and Laura Wells, currently a candidate of the Green Party for California state controller.

"The campus plays a very important role in the anti-war movement," Khalafawi said. "They're a crucial body that should be mobilized. UC Berkeley is known to be one of the most liberal campuses in the U.S. that brings all kinds of diverse people from all around the country. This is going to encourage a lot of campuses around the country to speak out and mobilize against the war."

Hatem Bazian, a UC Berkeley lecturer and director of the Al-Qalam Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, said the United States poses a greater threat to the world than Iraq because it is the only country in the world that has used nuclear arms in war.

"In this university and institutions of higher learning, we have been responsible for more weapons of mass destruction than Iraq has ever dreamed about," he said.

Many of the students in attendance said they supported a peaceful resolution to the Iraq conflict.

"There is a strong and legitimate voice speaking out against the war, saying that we need to explore peaceful measures," said junior Adil Khan, a member of the Berkeley Free Iraq Foundation. "Not only peaceful measures but just measures."

Though the majority of the students on Sproul supported the rally, others said they supported pursuing military action in Iraq.

"If you look at the rally, there's hardly anyone there," said UC Berkeley junior Steve Sexton, a member of the Berkeley College Republicans and former news editor of The Daily Californian. "That speaks to the fact that the majority of people recognize that the U.S. has no options left. This war is extremely justified because there's been a decade of defiance on the part of (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein, and the only way to get him to disarm is going to be force because that's all he responds to."

Many people in attendance said the rally continued the Berkeley legacy of anti-war activism.

"UC Berkeley has historically been the center of the anti-war movement," said Marc de Giere, a member of the coalition. "We hold a special role in initiating (activism on) campuses across the nation. I think we're an inspiration for a lot of people."

The rally was organized by the Berkeley Stop the War Coalition and sponsored by the Berkeley Free Iraq Foundation. UC Berkeley Muslim Students Association also endorsed the rally.


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