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Page 12
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Three-Day Antiwar Blitz in Baton Rouge

By Ward Reilly

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On the three-day weekend of February 11–14, 2006, Cindy Sheehan and Ann Wright were the guests of Baton Rouge's Coalition Against War and Injustice for a flurry of antiwar actions. Sheehan and Wright arrived Saturday and got to meet and mingle with about forty members of Southern Louisiana's antiwar community at a barbecue and potluck held at my home to kick off the weekend's events.

Candlelight Vigil for the Dead in Baton Rouge, September 12, 2005

On Sunday, Cindy and Ann spoke and answered questions at the Unitarian Universalist church in the morning. The spectacular third annual Candlelight Vigil for the Dead, also at the church that evening, was covered by several media outlets, including ABC-TV (on the ten o'clock news) and the Advocate, Baton Rouge's newspaper, which carried a large photo of the vigil on the front page.

Monday started with Cindy and Ann live on WRKF-FM radio for a one-hour statewide call-in show. After the Jim Engster show, we jumped into the van and hurried over to the studio of CBS-TV, where Cindy did a tape-delayed piece for the noon show.

Following the CBS show, Cindy was joined by Colonel David Couvillion at Louisiana State University in an open discussion on Iraq sponsored by the Bienville House Center for Peace and Justice and the LSU English department. Colonel Couvillion represented the pro-war side, while Sheehan stood in opposition to the occupation of Iraq. Couvillion had been in the initial invasion as a National Guard infantry officer, and was later a provincial governor of one of Iraq's southern provinces. The media were also in attendance for the forum, and our action made the front page of the Advocate, local TV, and the LSU newspaper. (LSU's nickname is "The Ole War Skule," primarily because General William T. Sherman was their first president, after the Civil War.)

All in all, it was a banner weekend for the Baton Rouge antiwar community, and we are most thankful for all of those who helped organize and worked to make this another successful weekend of activism.

The candlelight vigil unquestionably took the most amount of work, and the elaborate labyrinth was laid out over two weekends. 2,267 candles were lit, one for each American killed in action, along with a large cluster to represent the 150,000+ Iraqis killed during our invasion of their nation. The design was laid out by Maida Owens, and dozens of people worked for many hours to prepare the thousands of candles, which were put in cups with sand to hold them in place.

Three hundred citizens from around Southern Louisiana attended this year's candlelight vigil, up from one hundred and fifty last year, a sure sign that our citizens are becoming more and more disgusted with the neocons' "war on terror," which has done nothing but create more reasons for the Islamic world to hate our nation.

The names of the fifty-one Louisiana troops that have died in Iraq were read by VVAW and Veterans for Peace members Pat Dooley (Army, cavalry, 1968–69), David Collins (Army, combat medic, 1969–70), Mark Ruter (Air Force, Desert Storm, 1986–92) Randy Sinclair (Navy, 1976), and myself (Army, infantry, 1971–74) for the third straight year, a depressing and tearful task for those of us who have opposed the war since before it started.

The vigil is held to commemorate the worldwide demonstration that took place on February 15, 2003, when an estimated 10,000,000 citizens from scores of nations around the world marched in unison to try to prevent the USA from invading Iraq. It should be noted that 82% of the Iraqi people polled want the USA out now, a fact that even the pro-war colonel acknowledged during the debate at LSU.

May this be our last Vigil for the Dead here in Baton Rouge.

Ward Reilly is the Southeast national contact for VVAW.

David Collins, Cindy Sheehan, and Ward Reilly
at the Candlelight Vigil for the Dead in Baton Rouge, September 12, 2005

Veterans Mark Ruter, Pat Dooley, David Collins, Randy Sinclair,
and Ward Reilly, who read the names of the KIAs from Louisiana

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