One year later, protesters return downtown
The intermittent blare of car horns cut through the silence on George Street yesterday afternoon as hundreds sat quietly in the middle of an intersection. Traffic lights flashed yellow to red to green as protesters commemorating the five-year war in Iraq laid down their banners and megaphones for five minutes in hushed repose while dozens gazed at the impasse from sidewalks and downtown high-rises.
Protesters held up peace signs to impatient drivers as they waited out the minutes, each one symbolic of one year the U.S. has spent in Iraq.
The sit-in was part of an anti-war demonstration by University students and faculty as well as New Brunswick community members. The crowd took to the streets following a rally organized by the Walk Out Coalition.
Approximately 300 people marched in support of peace in the Middle East and ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
The crowd carried colorful signs, waved flags, held banners, chanted and sang for their cause all under the watchful eyes of the New Brunswick police, as well as media on both a local and national level.
As a rally comprised of several speakers came to an end, organizers urged the crowd to participate in an approximately 4 mile march in which students took control of city streets, forcing cars and buses to a standstill. The only exception the crowd made was allowing a lone ambulance passage through the masses.
Students said they decided to march for many reasons. School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Anthony Fuscaldo said he stands against the government's war for financial reasons.
"I'm tired of seeing the taxpayer's money that is contributing to the deaths," he said. "Where's the money for education?"
As marchers passed buses packed with stranded students, they held up peace signs to the passengers and chanted.
"We can't take it anymore! Students can stop this war!" they called in an effort to motivate bus passengers to join their cause.
Throughout the march, New Brunswick Police Department squad cars often led the way stopping traffic from going any further so demonstrators could pass. Officers on foot flanked the protesters on four sides to make sure things remained peaceful.
Members of Rutgers Against the War and Tent State University led the protest with a front banner that read, "End Campus Complicity! Divest!" as part of RAW's campaign to end to University spending that indirectly aids the war effort.
As the crowd reached the corner of Somerset and George streets, School of Arts and Sciences junior Tiffany Cheng took the megaphone to address the crowd.
"Let's give a shout out to Old Queens!" she said. "Rutgers is invested in a number of war profiteering companies such as Halliburton, Exxon Mobil, and Boeing. It is ridiculous that this information is being hidden from us. We should ask for an open policy on how the University invests its endowment."
The crowd continued down George Street to the Marine Corps Recruiting Station on New Street, just off their main route. A group of approximately 15 counter protesters, including members of the Rutgers College Republicans, stood in front of the building holding American flags and other signs reading, "I love Bush," and "I Support the Troops."
Kristofer Goldsmith a member of the New York City chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, addressed the crowd amid the interruptions.
"I'm an American soldier, okay?" he said. "I'm a combat vet. I have friends that are [in Iraq] right now. I'm speaking for the guys that don't want to be there and members of Iraq Veterans Against the War." Goldsmith asked everyone in the crowd to please stop calling the conflict in Iraq a war.
"It's not a war it's an occupation," he said. "When Congress votes in support of the War, they are not supporting the troops. I never got a pay raise when I was there."
After leaving the Marine Corps Recruiting Station, the march continued down George Street to the Exxon Mobil gas station.
"Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, take your war and go to hell!" protesters shouted as they sat in the street once again, blocking traffic at the intersection where the gas station is located.
"We are going to Exxon to protest their involvement in the war and their profiting from the war." TSU organizer and Rutgers College alumna Amanda Troeder said.
Demonstrators marched to Douglass campus at which point, TSU organizer and Rutgers College junior Erik Straub offered the crowd two options: the first, a speak-in at Voorhees Chapel, and the second, an extended march onto Route 18.
At the mention of taking over a major highway, the crowd cheered with approval.
As demonstrators approached the entranceway to the highway's southbound side, police scrambled to catch up to the front of the procession where they learned of the impromptu course decision.
"We are unstoppable, another world is possible!" the crowd chanted.