Student, Community protest war

By Gus Bode

Student, Community protest war

In the Student Center dining area it was business as usual-with one slight exception.

Baghdad – up in flames – was on every television. And the sound of explosions floating from nearby speakers added to the everyday lunch chitchat.


The daily noise followed the SIUC students out the door, until they stepped outside where they were met by a large, silent crowd. Some students said they felt surprised or shocked by the display they saw Thursday afternoon. After all, it isn’t everyday that people lie dead in a pool of blood on the SIUC campus.

But that was the very message war protesters, who pretended to be dead and poured fake blood on their body and face, wanted to send.

“Watching the news, Americans see bombs being dropped. We may see the bright lights and even the fires, but what we are not going to see is the human casualties from this war,” said Marc Torney, a senior studying history from Wheaton. “That is exactly what people are seeing today. That is why we are out here.”

As a few bodies outlined in chalk lay on the ground, a crowd gathered. Besides a few outspoken comments, the onlookers were just as silent as the protesters, who some with signs, others with fake blood on their faces, said everything without saying a word.

“The idea of a silent vigil was just that we are speechless,” said Raphi Rechitsky, a junior from Chicago. “I’m speechless at the atrocities that are happening. This is an unnecessary war.”

Doug Dyhrkopp was also speechless. A junior studying political science from Shawnee Town, Dyhrkopp said the whole protest was simply “crazy looking.”

“I don’t know what to think of this,” he said. “The first thing I think of though is what I watched the morning of Sept. 11 on live television.


I am in support of our troops. No matter what, we need to support our men and women who give these people the right to do this.”

As time marched on, more bodies were added to the “death toll.” More blood on their black clothes, more white chalk on the cold concrete, more silence.

And then 3-year-old Hesther Kuilenburg shouted out, “Mommy, there is a fly on your shoe.” Her mom, Nicola, laughed quietly.

“She is way to young too understand this,” Nicola said. “But we don’t believe in pretending. She has seen how angry we both are,” Nicola said of she and her husband, Marinus, who is a graduate student studying political science.

The Kuilenburgs are in America because of Marinus’ studies. Otherwise they would be attending similar protests in the Netherlands. Nicola admits she is half British, a half she said she is ashamed of.

“Now, I would rather say I am Dutch than admit I am British,” she said.

Nicola said everyone in the Netherlands, including the press, is against this war – a war that started Wednesday night despite protests in the United States and abroad.

“But most Americans I’ve spoken to here are also against the war,” Nicola said. “All our friends are against this war.”

Even with encouragement from American friends to speak out against war, Nicola said she and her husband had a tough time deciding whether they should do it publicly in America.

“We are foreigners, so we had to think of the consequences,” she said. “I mean what if there were consequences for our visas? We thought about what was more important:not saying anything or fighting out against it.”

Jackie Westfall, a junior studying philosophy from Energy, said the protest was a “good display of true patriotism.”

“It is nice to see anything besides apathy,” Westfall said as she watched the protesters lay lifelessly in front of her.

Kyle Gansaver, a high school senior from Centralia, was visiting SIUC to do research at the Morris Library. He and his friends said the display wouldn’t keep them from coming to SIUC because, “there are going to be people like these everywhere.”

Still, Gansaver does not agree with the protesters. In fact, he agrees with the war.

“I personally think we need to go to war,” he said. “Just because this is America, they can do this. Iraqis don’t have this right.”

Torney admits that may be true, but it doesn’t justify war, he said.

“If Americans aren’t going to see the bombs dropped by their elected officials, then we are going to bring it home to them and show them what is happening,” Torney said. “And this is nothing. This is 10. Can you imagine what 250,000 dead bodies looked like in the Gulf War?”

Whispers and silence, blood and black. That is what the mood was at the first protest. But when the onlookers cleared and the dead were revived, the protests weren’t finished.

At 4 p.m. plastic buckets created drums that were played louder than a high school band’s cadence at Carbondale’s Town Pavilion. This protest was still about those who will undoubtedly perish in Iraq, but moreover it was about sending a loud and clear message to the American government.

“Not in our name,” they pledged in resistance. It was the same pledge the group core has been making since the United States started dropping bombs in Afghanistan.

They’ve said it every Saturday while holding signs on the corner of Main and Illinois streets. They said it in Washington, D.C. at a national protest in January. And they said at several teach-ins, protests, marches, vigils, meetings, signs and speeches.

The war marches forward and so do the protestors.

As U.S. and ally soldiers fight in sandstorms in the Middle East, about 150 protesters marched from the pavilion to the Federal Building in pouring rain.

When bombs are falling, a little rain isn’t going to stop them, protesters said.

In the parade of protest, a little girl marches with a miniature, Crayola umbrella. It is colorful and bright, certainly a show of innocence in the sea of dark clothes, black signs and heavy beating drums.

The crowd circled the Federal Building with caution tape. It was still raining, the temperature was dropping, and it was only 5:30 p.m., 2 1/2 hours before the protest in front of the building was supposed to end. But when 9 p.m. rolled around, leaving the public eye certainly didn’t mean the protesters were finished for the night.

Next, they were to meet at the Interfaith Center where leftover food from the “Meat-Out day” dinner would be waiting on them. They planned to spend the night there for some quiet time they hoped would bring a little peace to their lives in the mist of what they called confusion.

“I haven’t had a lot of sleep in the last couple of days,” said Heather Howley, a graduate student studying speech communication. “This has been really stressful. I am worried and concerned, just like everyone else. This is a terrible move in a series of bad events.”

Tired and angry, but not hopeless, the protesters say they will continue to speak out against this war, even if it is to no avail. And they say the growing number of new faces at the protesters keeps them motivated to what they say may be a winless war – for everyone.

Today will bring different light on the same war as Carbondale High School students support the U.S. troops outside of their school from 8:10 to 8:25 a.m.

John Needham, 14, said he and his classmates got permission to gather before school to support a cause he said they believe in.

Though Needham said his class agreed the war was about President George Bush “finishing what his dad couldn’t,” he said the war is a just one.

“We think we should have the war because they push us around a little bit and we need to take out Saddam Hussein and free Iraq from its dictatorship.”

Reporter Kristina Herrndobler can be reached at [email protected]