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Local News

Demonstrators Make Peace Pitch from Four Corners

Small band aims to pressure Obama to get U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan

Several dozen people gathered Thursday at the intersection of Carrillo and Chapala streets, brandishing flags, banners and signs in an effort to promote peace. The group, greeted with honks of support from passing motorists, was protesting the sixth anniversary of the Iraq War. The demonstrators voiced opposition to what they termed the “new definition of withdrawal,” which they say will leave thousands of troops in Iraq while sending more to Afghanistan.

Andrew Hankin, one of the organizers of the event, said he wants to see President Obama move quickly to completely withdraw U.S. troops.

Lauren McElroy waves to passers-by as they honk in support during a peace rally Thursday.
Lauren McElroy waves to passers-by as they honk in support during a peace rally Thursday. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

“We’re trying to hold them to that campaign pledge,” he said of Obama’s oft-repeated promise to end the war without delay.

The assembled demonstrators included a collection of people from various organizations, such as the Santa Barbara Peoples Coalition and Veterans for Peace. Hankin said the coalition has been meeting since before the invasion of Iraq, as “sabers were being rattled,” and that a small group gathers every Saturday to walk up and down State Street.

If a residual force of troops stayed behind in Iraq, Hankin said, it would cost a vast amount of resources, which are badly needed domestically.

“The $600 billion war, that’s a stimulus package on its own,” he said. “We could have done a lot of good with that here ... There are all of these American issues that need money to be solved.”

Hankin said the rally was a show of solidarity, and to show passers-by that they are speaking out.

“It’s important for our spirits,” he said. “We know we’re right on this issue.

Standing nearby and wielding a sign, Lauren McElroy said she’s been protesting the Iraq War each year.  For her, being out on the side of the road is about civic engagement.

“I feel that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing my duty as a citizen,” she said.

McElroy said it was “a little scary” to be seen protesting at the beginning of the war, but that staying involved is crucial. Under the Constitution, she said, “there’s a place for the people’s voice, and if we don’t make that heard, then the system starts to break apart.”

Across the street, Lois Hamilton, the MoveOn.org coordinator for Santa Barbara, said she had her own motivations for being out at the rally: Her two 17-year-old grandsons, who are close in age to many soldiers who have chosen to serve in the military.

“It scares me to death,” she said.

Hamilton said she worked tirelessly on Obama’s campaign, but didn’t want him to allow troops to stay in the country.

“This is the prime time to let them know that we don’t want this war in Afghanistan to escalate,” she said.

“We’re going to keep on him until he brings them all home like he said he would,” she said.

Click here for additional photo coverage of the rally from Robert Bernstein.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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