An Antiwar March Through Towns Unused to One

The New York Times, May 15, 2008

By Michelle York

CENTRAL SQUARE, N.Y. — On Wednesday, Charlie Price was smoking a cigarette and sitting outside his restaurant, Charlie’s Place, on a two-lane stretch of highway on the outskirts of town.

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Mary Buttolph for The New York Times

Peace marchers in Mexico, N.Y., on their way to Fort Drum, where they plan to rally on Saturday, which is Armed Forces Day.

Mary Buttolph for The New York Times

Joseph C. Godfrey encouraged peace marchers. One of his sons suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after a tour in Iraq.

He watched as a small group protesting the war in Iraq marched toward him, carrying peace signs and waving at the cars and tractor-trailers whizzing by. “I don’t think it’s going to do any good,” Mr. Price said of their efforts. “I want to get out of there, too, but I don’t think this is the way.”

Yet once the protesters, headed for Fort Drum, more than 50 miles away, reached him, Mr. Price eagerly offered them water and a place to rest — a more pleasant welcome than they had received from many others along the way.

Carmen Viviano-Crafts, 23, of Syracuse, who was carrying a small cardboard sign that read, “Bring home my boyfriend,” said that some people “gave us the finger and stuff like that.”

Since the war in Iraq began five years ago, the Second Brigade at Fort Drum has put in four tours.

For the past week, opponents of the war have taken several routes through the conservative and largely rural reaches of upstate New York — small communities that have sent many of their young men and women into the military right after high school and have paid a disproportionate price.

On Saturday, which is Armed Forces Day, protesters ranging from peace activists to Iraq Veterans Against the War will hold a daylong rally outside Fort Drum. What they lack in numbers — there were only about 40 on the road on Wednesday — they have made up for in passion, having walked about 80 miles so far.

Continued . . .

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