Students protest in Washington

While most students were salvaging what was left of winter break, or heading back to school, senior Mike McRaith was busy organizing a trip to Washington D.C. for a protest against a war with Iraq.

McRaith, in coordination with the Northwoods Peace Initiative, gathered nearly 60 area residents, including four UW-Eau Claire students, to travel to Washington in order to participate in the protest.

“There was a need for a contact person in Eau Claire,” McRaith said. His experience in past protests, he said, made it easier for him to take on this role.

On Friday morning, a bus left for Washington and continued through the night so McRaith and other participants could arrive in time for Saturday’s rally.

Once the protest was over, the bus headed back to Eau Claire.

McRaith said that although the number varies with sources as to how many people actually participated in the protest, the group was large and very diverse.

“There was a large group of homeless people from North Carolina and several families,” he said. “It was a very conservative crowd, considering it was anti-government.”

The rally at the nation’s capital included speakers, information tables, several signs and many different causes for protest, McRaith said.

Jessica Bisbey, a sophomore at UW-Eau Claire who also participated in the protest, was overwhelmed by the amount of people and different groups there.

“There were a lot of different religious groups; people for the war and communists,” she said. “They were protesting in a way for their own group.”

The protest in Washington was Bisbey’s first, but she said it has inspired her to participate more.

“It really motivated me to get involved with local politics and play some part,” Bisbey said.

Both McRaith and Bisbey agree that the protest was fun because of the lively atmosphere. There were a lot of people playing drums and singing, which helped to lighten the mood, but Bisbey said that she most enjoyed being around people who share her belief about war.

“I have really strong feelings against having a war with Iraq and thought my presence could count for something,” she said. “There is no simple way to find a solution, but definitely not jump into a war.”

There were eight buses, including the one from Eau Claire that transported Wisconsonites to Washington.