As activists around the nation rallied for peace Wednesday to mark the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, Temple’s Student Peace Alliance demonstrated at the Bell Tower.
Gathered around the “Peace Pole,” members of the peace-driven organization held up posters as they chanted words of dissatisfaction toward the progress in Iraq.
Among these chants, junior philosophy major and former SPA President Madison Chibirka asked, “What do you want?” as other members responded, “Peace!”
“When do we want it?” Chibirka shouted.
“Now!” the crowd responded.
About 13 students stood in the rain without umbrellas for an hour in the middle of the afternoon as students passed between classes. Protesters held signs reading “$275 million PER DAY” and “3,990 Casualties.” One member wrote “War Is Not Peace” on his stomach.
The demonstration was one of many anti-war rallies across the country, including Washington, D.C., where protestors blocked the entrance to the Internal Revenue Service building, resulting in more than 30 arrests.
The SPA is a supportive force of peace in local and international relations. They actively oppose violent acts relating to war, gun violence, violence against women and anything else that threatens peace.
Temple’s SPA is a chapter within the national Student Peace Alliance, which considers themselves not to be an anti-war organization, but rather one that is pro-peace, said Aram Dagavarian, an undeclared freshman and co-chair of the public relations committee within Temple’s chapter.
“We do not focus on the problem, which is war, but instead focus on the solution, which is peace,” Dagavarian said. “We have two goals. One, to raise awareness and gather support for a cabinet level Department of Peace in the federal government. Two, to develop and cultivate a culture of peace on campus.”
In addition to chanting, students also held five moments of silence, each a minute long and representing a year that the United States has been at war with Iraq. Members held their arms high as they gave the peace sign and reflected upon the last five years of lives lost from the war.
“The main goal of the rally on Wednesday was to show the community that we have not forgotten about the injustice of it,” Chibirka said. “Many [who oppose] the war choose to ignore it, but we gathered at the Bell Tower on Wednesday to stand up for justice and peace until we get it. We are all aware that the SPA’s efforts alone are not going to stop the war, but the purpose for our rallies and walkouts [is] to bring our hope together that we will see peace.”
Among the SPA members,sophomore Carrie LaGreca, who is studying pre-pharmacy, said she feels the need to create more awareness among our community as well as to Congress and other political figures.
“Awareness is key because how is anyone supposed to fix anything if they don’t know the problem exists?” she said. “Results take action. If they aren’t made, this country will never be able to move forward. I think with a little effort we can make big changes.”
“The rally on Wednesday was more of a mourning for me,” said Brian MacNamara, the other public relations co-chair for SPA, a junior education major. “I really just wanted to take time to reflect on all the money we have needlessly fed to this war and much more importantly all of the lives that have been lost, maimed or ruined.”
“My goal was centered around the current Iraq war, in commemoration of five years of deceit, death, injury and animosity,” said SPA member Andy Sharpe, a sophomore journalism major.
He added that he wishes he could have gone to Washington, D.C., where a massive rally took place, but took pride in the fact that he was still able to participate in something close to home.
The SPA plans to hold future events related to this issue as well as many other issues by means of more protests, educational programs, guest speakers, community service, conflict resolution and mediation for groups with opposing view points. Their quest for peace is something they view as constantly progressive and hopeful.
Danielle Buxbaum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.