August 29, 2007
Anti-War Protesters March In Village
It was, according to Nick Santora "a miniscule sacrifice." Sporting a T-shirt adorned with a carton of George Bush as the Energizer Bunny beating a drum that says "war," Santora, who teaches American History in Roslyn, was among dozens of protestors in East Hampton Village who gave up a sunny Saturday afternoon to rally against the Iraq war. Like Santora, Manhattan resident Nydia Leaf was visiting friends in the Hamptons and volunteered eagerly to participate in the protest. She wore a button naming her a member of the "Granny Peace Brigade," and a T-shirt that said "Arrest Cheney First."
In all, approximately 80 marchers attended the demonstration. A variety of anti-war organizations including the East End Vets, East End Peace and Justice, the North Fork People of Conscience, and the Women in Black, participated. NFPC posted dozens of photos and bios of American soldiers killed in the war on a barricade that stretched along Main Street.
Protestors marched from a mustering site in front of Starbucks down Main Street, crossing at a midblock crosswalk, back up Main Street past the movie theater and across the street at the traffic light, completing the loop several times over the course of two hours. Film star Danny Glover was among celebrities present.
Signs proclaimed "The Surge Sucks," "No More Blood," "Enough is Enough," and "Shame on US." Helen Fitzgerald, one of the rally's organizers, explained the choice of a busy Saturday during the summer. It was designed to shed the most amount of light on the protest. Traffic slowed to a crawl past the rallying spot, and when protesters filed across Main Street. But, for the most part, drivers and passengers expressed support for the cause, waving hands bent in the '60s peace sign gesture out the windows of vehicles.
Bill Taylor of the East End Vets also helped organize the rally. He recalled an earlier demonstration, when his group and others placed 1500 white crosses on the Hook Mill triangle. "I said then, 'If this keeps up, this triangle won't be big enough to hold all the crosses,'" he recalled, adding, "Now it wouldn't." Taylor emphasized that as a vet he supports the troops, but "what we're doing over there is stupid. I hate to see great people wasted." His nephew just recently joined the service.
After about an hour of marching a loop, the group proceeded to the triangle near the mill, chanting "Money for schools, not for war," and "Support our troops, bring them home."
Filing past tourists, Dan Steiger said to one group, "You don't have to stop shopping, but you have to stop the war."
Steiger was one of five protesters arrested last year during an anti-war demonstration organized by many of the same groups. Village officials gave the group a permit to hold a stationary protest along a section of Main Street in front of the theater. The permit did not provide for marching. And Steiger wanted to march. He stepped outside the designated area, exhorting the crowd to follow suit.
Asked three times by police to stay inside the barricade, Steiger refused and, after a brief scuffle with Sergeant Dave Griffiths and Village Police Chief Jerry Larsen, was arrested. A short while later, Steiger's employee Conor Wolfe-Milne was cuffed and hustled off-site, when he broke ranks and urged protestors to join him. Across the street, three females who tried to march with signs outside the designated area were also arrested.
On Saturday, the rally came to a conclusion with a gathering in front of the Hook Mill. Those arrested last year were brought to the front of the crowd and applauded. According to Fitzgerald, part of the reason for the rally was to show support for the defendants whose case is expected to come to court after multiple adjournments early next month.
Jim Henry, the Democratic candidate for supervisor in Southampton Town, has tapped into his experience with the New York Civil Liberties Union to assist in the defense of the protestors. Speaking before the gathering at the windmill, he noted the "collateral damage" to the Constitution the war has brought about. Policies implemented in the name of protecting national security have "effectively repealed the Fourth Amendment," Henry said. "We're not just battling a war, we're battling for our rights," he said.