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Rebuilding Iraq

Vigils light up state in hopes of peace

By C. Kalimah Redd, Globe Correspondent, 3/17/2003

    Rebuilding Iraq


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On a night when many felt the nation was on the brink of war, thousands of people turned out across the Bay State for up to 100 candlelight vigils against a US-led strike on Iraq.

Many of the gatherings, like the one that drew 300 to St. Paul's Church in Brookline, were more like solemn block parties with neighbors recognizing each other by candlelight.

The rallies were held in solidarity with a "rolling wave of candlelight," an international movement of silent vigils that occurred around the world yesterday, beginning in New Zealand, in support of diplomacy rather than war.

One gathering in Cambridge drew up to 1,000 people, while others in Newton, Brookline, Jamaica Plain, and on City Hall Plaza drew groups ranging from 75 to several hundred, organizers said.

The participants learned of the events largely through the Internet and word of mouth, and local organizers said the number of those attending represents a growing desire worldwide to prevent war with Iraq.

Brookline peace supporters stood in the grass outside St. Paul's, silent at first with their burning candles.

"Peace is light," said Nancy Waller, 84, of Brookline. "You have to speak up, even though I don't think the Bush administration's inner circle is listening."

"You don't have to say anything but see people and know how they feel through their presence," said Licia Sky, 43, of Brookline, who has previously traveled to antiwar protests in New York and Washington.

"It gives people something simple to do in their own neighborhood," said Molly Lanzarotta, an organizer of the event. "People have been at a loss."

Also yesterday, thousands rallied throughout the region in support of the US troops. More than 100 flag-waving demonstrators sang "God Bless America" to support the president and the military in Portsmouth, N.H. "Saddam must go," supporters shouted in Portsmouth's Market Square on Saturday.

Organizer Craig Henne, of Eliot, Maine, said the rally was held to support the troops overseas, Bush's plan against Iraq, and to answer the weekly antiwar protests held at the same spot.

"I'm tired of seeing people out here Friday nights in support of Saddam Hussein," he said. "You can't be antiwar and promilitary. When you don't support America, that just empowers Saddam Hussein."

Jai Bahai of Berwick, Maine, said she came out to support the troops and because she strongly believes "containment doesn't work."

And on Route 9 in Framingham, dozens of pickets showed support for the Bush administration.

Susan Shaer, who also helped organize the rolling wave of candlelight vigils, and attended the Cambridge rally, said the process to disarm Hussein should continue. "We also know at least he doesn't have the ability to get any weapons that could hit us," Shaer said.

Shaer said more than 1,000 people attended the Cambridge rally, and many of the vigils were held on doorsteps and backyards. "People are just doing it where they want. It's pretty amazing," she said.

Thomas Schram, 10, joined several classmates from Lawrence School at the Brookline peace vigil. Schram, who moved from New York in August, said he knew seven people who died at the World Trade Center.

Schram said, "I don't want to see more people dying."

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