COLUMBIA – Calls for an end to troop activity in Afghanistan were heard through the rhythm of bongosMarch 21, at the Columbia Peace Coalition’s statewide rally and march next to the Boone County Courthouse. The event marked the sixth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War and highlighted what organizers called the economic and human costs of war.
Several hundred people were sitting, standing or dancing at the corner of Eighth and Ash streets as the percussion ensemble, Divine Rhythm, began their set at around 1:30 p.m. Those not listening to the music were waving signs at passing cars or signing sticky notes to send to Gov. Jay Nixon.
“We need the government to know that instead of investing billions of dollars a month in war and reconstruction, it should be spending taxpayers' dollars on green technology and helping out the working class,” said Ben Rumpell, a Washington, Mo., resident who traveled to the event with his wife, Joey, to help spread awareness of the social costs of a foreign war.
Bill Ramsey, an event coordinator from the St. Louis area who helped plan the rally, said organizers made the decision this year to find a centralized location to hold a statewide event. Columbia was selected primarily due to its location and its large student population.
“It took us about two months to organize, but we have people coming from Kansas City by train and car," Ramsey said. "We have people coming from St. Louis by car and bus, and people from all over the state are arriving with bicycles for the march and ride. It was the perfect spot for this."
After several guest speakers, including Iraq War veteran Tomas Young and Iraqi scholar Zaid Maher, the participants began marching from the Boone County Courthouse through downtown Columbia and then back to the steps of Courthouse Square.
“We’re marching to let people know that we should be focusing on trouble at home, not trouble in Afghanistan,” said M.J. Maroney of St. Louis. “Why have war with people who had nothing to do with 9/11 when we have working people suffering here?”
Most people protesting with signs along Ash Street took issue with the recent surge of troops and the large amount tax dollars spent on a war they oppose. Many signs were addressed to President Barack Obama and to the current congress.
“What people don’t realize is that we aren’t anti-Bush, we’re anti-war," Maroney said. "It doesn’t matter if it’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House, we don’t support administrations that support war. That's really what it comes down to: an end to the war."