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New Jersey: Over a thousand walk out at Rutgers to end the war

By David Hungerford

Larry Romsted speaks to a crowd of students

New Brunswick, NJ – “Yes to peace! No to war!” rang out in Arabic over the campus of Rutgers University as more than a thousand students walked out of classes on March 27 to protest five years of the occupation of Iraq. The walkout came a week after over 90 SDS chapters and progressive student organizations held demonstrations denouncing five years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

The chant was led by student leader Sumia Ibrahim. In a speech strongly supportive of Iraq she told the crowd that in 1991, when what she called the war against Iraq started, Iraq had a really good educational system. Now bullets are piercing classrooms forcing students to duck, a symbol of national destruction.

She spoke of the more than one million Iraqis killed in the war, more than four million displaced from their homes and one third of Iraqi children who suffer from malnutrition. The crowd chanted thunderously with her, “Iraq for Iraqis! Troops out now!”

Tiffany Cheng from Rutgers Against War said the students had jumped through hoops to get information about university investments in companies like Exxon Mobil, Raytheon and Halliburton. She raised the demand that all information of this kind be made freely available to the public and called for divestment. She pointed out that a vibrant divestment movement against South African companies in the 1980s had contributed to the end of apartheid. She quoted Frederick Douglas’s statement, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will!”

Erik Straub, one of the organizers of the rally, said the crowd were not just people who knew enough to oppose the war, they knew enough to walk out in protest. He said that evil is organized; it has billions of dollars at its disposal and means to use its money. He called for systematic political organizing to build people’s power.

Chemistry professor Larry Romsted, who is also a member of the People’s Organization for Progress, told the rally about anti-war actions in Washington D.C. the week before. Recalling the Vietnam War, he said Nixon had pledged to end the war in 1968 but it went on many years more. “I would like this to end a lot sooner,” he said, and urged students to be creative in finding many different things to do to end the war.

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