College students rally for peace

More than 200 from area campuses decry plans for war

`A call ... for justice'

September 23, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Eric Leslie held a bullhorn aloft and belted out the peace songs of his parents' generation yesterday as he began walking backward on North Charles Street at the head of more than 200 flag-waving, banner-carrying college students.

With a peace sign painted on his right cheek, Leslie, a senior and political science major at the Johns Hopkins University, became the group's Pied Piper, leading a group of young people - each protesting the U.S. government's call to war in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - on a march from 33rd Street to a clearing in front of a Civil War monument near the south end of campus.

"We need to come together rather than be divided," he shouted through the bullhorn as the students formed a circle on the grass. "Our march is also a call for peace, for justice."

With the U.S. government gearing up for what President Bush called a "war on terror" in his address to Congress on Thursday, the students from Baltimore-area campuses added their protest to others at colleges across the country in recent days.

Organizers from Hopkins, Goucher College and Towson University - students from campus organizations that usually address labor issues - said the rally was put together after a meeting Monday when they realized that although they condemned the terrorist attacks, they felt a need for a "message of peace."

As they rallied, the students decried what they called a war against a still unknown enemy, expressed concern that efforts to weed out terrorism would impinge on civil rights and unfairly target Muslims, and said they had a "responsibility" to question government officials.

"We must demand both certainty and responsibility from our government," said Goucher senior Hope Rubin, 20, a psychology major. "Remember, one is innocent until proven otherwise, and only the guilty are guilty."

Flag of many nations

As she spoke, students waved flags from many countries - including the United States, France and Pakistan - that had been borrowed from the walls of Goucher's Thormann International Technology and Media Center, banged on bongo drums and cake pans, and held up signs.

Some said they were worried about friends who are in the military or who might be called upon to serve in the future. Others said they were following in the footsteps of their parents, who protested during the 1960s and 1970s. Most at yesterday's rally hadn't been born when the United States fought the Vietnam War, and they were in grade school during the Persian Gulf war.

"I just feel like we're attacking too soon," said Michelle Lynch, 18, a freshman English and dance major at Goucher. "It seems like all the information is not gathered yet."

As the students rallied, Angel Hedrick, 35, of Arcadia, watched from the shade with daughter Isabelle, 8 months, and partner Debora Varon, 40. Friends had told the couple about the rally, they said.

"Having a kid, we're concerned about the future, living in a peaceful world," said Hedrick, a social worker. "We were lucky to grow up without war. ... I'd like to keep it that way."

Cycle of history

Later, as the crowd of students - and a few members of the Vietnam War generation who joined in the rally - began to disperse, Leslie, a member of the Hopkins Student Labor Action Committee and a rally organizer, said he never thought he would pick up the same issues his parents had addressed as activists during the Vietnam and civil rights era. Back then, he said, his parents fought for basic rights; he figured his generation's job would be to highlight more specific topics - such as labor issues.

"It feels strange coming back to the same songs and chants expressed 30 years ago," said Leslie, of Cambridge, Mass. "It shows history is quite cyclical, and you never know what the future holds."

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