Saratoga County

Anti-war vigil held in Gillibrand’s office

A group of peace activists called for the immediate end to the Iraq war on Friday while keeping warm
Jeffrey Halpern,left, and Leland Lakritz, both members of the Saratoga Peace Alliance, maintain a vigil Friday afternoon outside the office of Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office in Saratoga Springs
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Jeffrey Halpern,left, and Leland Lakritz, both members of the Saratoga Peace Alliance, maintain a vigil Friday afternoon outside the office of Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office in Saratoga Springs

A group of peace activists called for the immediate end to the Iraq war on Friday while keeping warm inside the local office of Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand.

The seven-hour vigil in the congresswoman’s district office at 487 Broadway went smoothly with no need for police intervention.

“We have a great relationship with these groups,” said Patricia Friesen, one of the congresswoman’s district representatives.

“They are always welcome,” Friesen said.

In fact, the district office, which usually closes at 5 p.m., was kept open until 10 p.m. to accommodate representatives of seven different anti-war organizations.

Gillibrand, D-Hudson, was not present but members of her staff discussed the war with the about two dozen people who participated in the vigil.

Gillibrand was returning from London, where she and her husband, who is from England, were visiting family, according to her staff.

“Our goal is not to put the pressure on Ms. Gillibrand or to confront her on why she voted in favor of the bill to fund the war and occupation in Iraq,” says a statement from a group called Peace Works, which coordinated the vigil.

“Instead, we want more of the American public to know that this was and is wrong, immoral and illegal and must end now without any strings attached,” the statement says.

The groups, which include the Saratoga Peace Alliance, Veterans for Peace and the Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, want an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, no American bases there and no more spending American tax dollars on the occupation of that country.

“Our purpose is to unite America,” said Jim Fulmer of Saratoga Springs.

Fulmer, a Peace Works member, said all the political parties need to unite “to find a way to end this insane war.”

Fulmer noted nearly 4,000 American soldiers have died fighting in Iraq. He added that “several hundred thousand” Iraqi people have also been killed during the war and millions have been displaced.

May Saffar, a native of Iraq, said her country needs to be left alone.

Darius Shahinfar, another Gillibrand regional representative, said the fear is that if the United States leaves Iraq now there will be chaos in that country.

Saffar claimed this would not be the case.

“We are not as radical as the media portrays us,” Saffar said. She maintained that if the United States leaves Iraq it would bring an end to the “killings, the crimes, the bloodshed.”

Linda LeTendre of Saratoga Springs and Peace Works said she attended the vigil because, as a Christian, she feels the war is immoral and ungodly.

“I brought my Bible and my Book of Hours,” LeTendre said. She said she intended on staying the full seven hours.

Elliot Adams of Sharon Springs, president of the Veterans for Peace, said each new war involves more civilian deaths than the previous one.

Adams, who said he served as a U.S. Army paratrooper during Vietnam and Korea, said many soldiers who fought in Vietnam ended up opposing the war when they saw what was going on there.

“There has got to be a better way to help Iraq with its problems,” Fulmer said.

He said that country may not want democracy.

“That’s up to the Iraqi people,” he said.

Fulmer said the Peace Works organizers chose Gillibrand’s office because it represents the people of the 20th Congressional District.

“Our idea was to bring the message to the people,” Fulmer said.

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