"Imagine you are an Iraqi citizen.”
This was an invitation to passers-by during a busy noon-hour at MU’s Speakers Circle on Wednesday where the United Activists’ Network protested continuing military operations in Iraq.
The rally was not just a call for peace or a protest against the war, which marks its second anniversary Sunday. It was a call for students to join one of the 10 organizations comprising the activists’ network, said event organizer Colan Holmes.
“I feel like the Iraq war has been going on for two years and people don’t say much about it,” said MU freshman Aisha Qidwae. “I feel like people think it is unpatriotic because our troops are out there dying, and, unfortunately, so are a lot of Iraqi soldiers.”
The rally’s theme, “Don’t Forget the People,” focused on the Iraqi and American death tolls. Since the start of the war, 1,511 U.S. troops have died, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. The number of Iraqi civilian deaths is unknown: estimates from non-government and anti-war groups range from 10,000 to 100,000.
A series of speakers emphasized the importance of increasing student dialogue, how prisoners are treated in Guantanamo Bay and what Holmes describes as the war’s negative impact on the nation and those involved.
Five signs protesting U.S. involvement bordered a portion of the circle while about 50 people gathered on the tiered steps and surrounding benches; hundreds more circulated between classes. Some stopped to listen while others acknowledged the rally with cheering shouts of, “Go Bush,” or quiet singings of, “I’m proud to be an American.”
Sophomore Jennifer Hutchinson said she was drawn to the rally because she wanted to hear a point of view different from her own.
“The purpose of why we are in Iraq is to make them a better country and maybe to get their democracy started,” Hutchinson said.
The rally ended with a spontaneous march around campus.