Protests against the war in Iraq come in all shapes and sizes. From large demonstrations to small gatherings, one theme is evident, however — a passion for peace.
In Alexandria last week, two examples of peaceful protests opposing the war contrasted each other.
Students from T.C. Williams walked out of school Thursday to show their unity against the U.S. war in the Middle East. About 300 students left their classrooms during first period and stood near the flagpole during a driving rainstorm on King Street to express their concern.
“Honk if you are against the war,” their signs read, and motorists on King Street complied.
“I was at the protest because I am against the war,” said Reka Barton, a junior. “I thought it was good that everybody came together for a good cause.”
Dominique Justice agreed. “I was at the protest because I wanted to express my opinion against the war,” she said. “War does not solve anything. It only causes people to lose loved ones and their homes.”
THE STUDENTS stood under umbrellas and chanted anti-war slogans for nearly 90 minutes. Principal John Porter monitored the protest and told the students if they returned to their classes for second period, they would not be disciplined. They did.
Alexandria police also monitored the student protest. “The students were great,” said Amy Bertsch, a spokesperson for the police department. “They were very peaceful and did not cause any trouble.”
THAT WASN'T THE CASE for John R. Smucker III. Police arrested the Alexandria man and charged him with obstructing free passage for sitting at the intersection of King and Washington streets during the evening rush hour on Thursday. Several officers watched as Smucker stood on the sidewalk talking to people and handing out anti-war literature. They took him into custody quickly when he went into the street.
“I have participated in a number of protests against war,” Smucker said. “My son is in Kuwait traveling with the British troops. He’s a journalist. I told him that I was going to protest, and he told me that I shouldn’t climb the fence at the White House, but that I should protest here in Alexandria. That’s what I’m going to do, and I will be there until I get arrested.”
His son Philip is on assignment for the Christian Science Monitor and the London Daily Telegraph. He has also recently been featured on National Public Radio.
The elder Smucker, 75, was released on $500 bond and will appear in General District Court in Alexandria this week. Obstruction of free passage is a Class 1 misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500.