BURLINGTON - With his tattoos and cigarette, Andy Brooks seems like your average young soldier. Except for one thing: He doesn't want to fight the government's war. Brooks, a 20-year-old medic from Milwaukee, will deploy to Iraq this summer from Fort Drum military base in New York State. But on Saturday, he spoke to a 350-person crowd outside Burlington City Hall in support of an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
"It'll take more than this to end the war," Brooks said afterward. "But it's a start."
Saturday's rally, which took place a day after Peter Welch and his congressional Dems passed a legislatively schizophrenic troop-withdrawal-cum-military-spending bill, featured speeches by familiar peacesters: Drew Cameron, Matt Howard and Liam Madden of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Progressive Party Rep. David Zuckerman and International Socialist Organization rabble-rouser Tristan Aide.
The masses were in high spirits. David Smith, 67, of Greensboro, carried a sign reading, "George, you ignorant slut!" Becky Rabin, 42, of Burlington brought her 2-year-old daughter Cora along for an afternoon of dissent. And Burlington High sophomore Molly Fitzsimmons, 16, represented one of many young faces in the crowd.
After the rally, a group of student activists from UVM, St. Michael's, Johnson State and Middlebury Colleges convened to plan the next phases of their respective antiwar campaigns. At the same time, 20-year-old Harris Bucklin led a group of anarcho-radicals in a 22-person "die-in" - plus dog - outside the Lakeside Avenue offices of General Dynamics. The Virginia-based military contractor, which received $10.5 billion last year in federal war bucks, manufactures euphemism-impaired products such as the "Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System."
"General Dynamics knows that we are holding them accountable for this illegal, brutal and ever-worsening condition that is the current war in Iraq," Bucklin cried. "Not many people are aware of what General Dynamics does, or even that they have manufacturing or engineering sites here in Burlington. This is why we chose to show up at their front door."