Jay Shaft / Coalition For Free Thought In Media – 2004-09-01 09:28:08
Earlier today I interviewed Sue Niederer, a member of Military Families Speak Out. She took part in the United for Peace and Social Justice mass Anti-War march in New York City today. She was in Central Park when I talked to her after the march. Her son Lt. Seth Dvorin was killed on February 3, 2004, just over two weeks after he returned to Iraq. He spent his leave at home with his family and Sue watched him go back to Iraq with a terrible premonition that he wouldn’t return safely.
People Are Realizing What a Mistake this War Really Is
The following is a transcription of a phone interview conducted at 5:45 PM, August 29, 2004.
JS : You were in the march a couple hours ago. You say there were 1,000,000 people?
SN: CNN is reporting 1,000,000 people, that’s CNN’s figure.
(Protest organizers estimated between 500,000-1 million and an NYPD spokesperson estimated the crowd at between 750,000-850,000.)
JS: From what you saw on the ground what do you say? How long was the march?
SN: Before we started, and this was around 10AM, it was over six blocks long already. That was before anyone even started marching. We were like right up front, so I couldn’t even tell you how long it really was, I couldn’t see that far back.
JS: From what I just saw on TV it took at least four hours or more from the first marcher to the last straggler to finish up.
SN: Absolutely, there’s not even a question about that.
JS: From what I’ve been told there are at least 100,000 protesters in Central Park right now. What is the attitude of the police in light of the fact that no one has a permit?
SN: They’re fine. They’re walking around, they’re not hassling anybody, they are being real good. You can see who is with the FBI and spot the under cover cops. I mean you can tell by their demeanor, the large size of some of them, the general attitude they have when they are walking around, they’re not real hard to spot.
I’m in a different section of Central Park right now, but I just left the Great Lawn about 5-10 minutes ago. That’s where the main gathering was is, and there’s no problem there. Everybody is doing their own thing, throwing frisbees, baseballs, but you know who they are, because the protest signs are there. People are still holding protest signs, and they are just having a good time.
JS: How did it make you feel to march with all those people based upon your feelings about the war? How did it make you feel to see all those other people out there today?
SN: Solidarity, pure solidarity. It’s amazing to see how many more people turned out compared to the one here in NYC on March 20th of this year (the one-year anniversary of the Iraq Invasion). There were maybe 200-250,000 people that showed up then, and now it’s quadrupled, it was so much bigger. Evidently people are realizing what this war is, and what a mistake it really is, it’s just amazing to see the public turnout.
All the different groups, the diversity of the different people, it’s just so great to have them here. So many groups, so many unions have joined since the last time that is was an amazement to me.
JS: Were you anywhere near the coffin march? Were you marching close to those people?
(1000 flag draped coffins were carried in the march today to symbolize what the US military death toll is expected to be by November. If the current rate of casualties continues, there will be well over 1000 troops killed in Iraq before election day.)
SN: We had the opportunity to have use of some of the coffins for our group Military Families Speak Out, we were offered some, but I don’t know what happened, somehow they never became available. But they were out in force today; we passed by a group of people carrying them.
JS: I saw an overhead view of the long line of coffins, and the visual impact was just incredible.
SN: I do know that we passed some and they were distributed through the crowd by the end of the march because of all the media trying to interview the coffin bearers. There were some people walking around with them, so it got noticed, that’s for sure. They were all over the place; you definitely couldn’t miss them, no way.
JS: It’s great to know that they were all over the place, because the purpose was to give the American people a true picture of our losses in Iraq. It’s kind of hard to get a true picture of how much of an impact it had until you talk to people that are there on the ground. It’s hard to really get an idea of what’s going on, even with the live C-Span coverage.
SN: Well I’m right here now, I’m still in Central Park.
JS: How many people would you estimate are in Central Park right now?
SN: Where I am standing, which is on the summit, about 75-100. Now out on the Great Lawn, where I just came from, where the mass rally is, I don’t know, about 100,000, at least.
JS: So people are definitely not complying with the court order to stay out of Central Park? Even though they were threatened with arrest, they are still going on with the demonstration?
SN: It’s a matter of people using these parks, it’s their right, it’s also about your attitude. You go over there, you are polite, and you take your frisbees and your baseballs and play catch. But everybody sees your signs, and everybody knows what you are talking about.
It’s your attitude that shows the truth. You’re not looking to tear up the lawn, you’re not looking to be arrogant, and you’re not looking for the police to come over, that’s not what people are looking for. It’s not about trying to be confrontational. That’s not what the protestors are looking for.
JS: Have you seen any incidences of the police arresting people?
SN: No I have not, absolutely not, I have not seen one. Now I heard they were arresting some people today on bicycles, but that was because they were not allowed to ride in the march, the permit was just for a march.
JS: Is there anything you want to say to the American people?
SN: Just that Military Families Speak Out is the group I belong to. We say it’s time to bring the troops home from Iraq, end this war now and bring our children home, before anyone else dies for this needless war.
It’s time to tell Bush goodbye in November, he’s got to go, he’s already killed enough people, no more. It’s time to stop this madness, enough killing, enough death. Enough is enough!
NO MORE! It’s clear that people are opposing this war and everything Bush stands for. All you have to do is look at what is going on here in New York.
JS: You had a son die in Iraq. Being in a march like this one today, is this any release for you, does it make any difference? Does it make it any easier to deal with the ongoing pain and loss?
SN: Oh yes! It’s an absolute release for me because of the fact that I see the solidarity, and I see the people supporting the fact that Bush has got to go. They support getting Bush out of office, but they still totally support the troops.
That’s what is important to know. They are totally in support of the troops, but they realize that Bush has got to go because of what his lies, deceptions, and arrogance caused the American public, and especially the troops.
JS: So it sounds like you had a healing experience going to the march today.
SN: I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t know this would be a positive experience. I’m amongst my friends and a very large group of people who care about me. This Military Families group is phenomenal, and we learned the truth about what is really going on in Iraq. We have kids or loved ones over there. Well in my case I don’t any longer, THANK YOU GEORGE BUSH! But we know what the truth is, and we are able to bring it out to people who do not.
JS: There have been a lot of recent deaths and injuries to troops in Iraq, and thousands of soldiers are either going there for the first time, or returning again. What is your advice to a family that is going through a questioning period, or a time of doubt? What advice do you give to a family who has lost a loved one, but doesn’t know if questioning the reasons why is right?
SN: What I would suggest is that they get in touch with Military Families Speak Out, www.mfso.org. I would advise that they get in touch with them. They don’t have to join anything until they’re comfortable with us, or they don’t have to join us at all if they don’t want to.
But I recommend that they check us out, because we offer a way for them to share in the healing process, a way to deal with the grief. We have been there, and we still live with it everyday.
JS: So you are saying that it is in no way wrong or unpatriotic to join a group like MFSO? Is it okay to get in touch with someone who has gone public with their grief?
I know a lot of families feel that it would dishonor their loved ones memory, but they live with a serious conflict because they suppress their true feelings. With the way the government and media have portrayed the anti war protestors, many families might want to speak out, but are afraid.
How do you think they should address the problems they might have with the grieving and anger?
SN: Absolutely, they have every right to speak out, they have the right to question their own government. There is nothing wrong with that, it is not unpatriotic, and anyone who says that is sick! Just sick and evil! This war is wrong, and many of us have lost loved ones.
How dare Bush and the government deny us our right to mourn! It is not wrong, we are all here to support and help the families go through the grieving process. Believe me it’s not easy for many of the people I talk to come to this point, but here we all are, thousands of families and going strong.
If you have grief it is okay to share it. That’s what MFSO is all about, we support each other, we become each other’s family. The only way to really get over losing a child is to share it, and you can’t let them repress that right to mourn publicly.
That’s what I came here today to do, and that’s what all my friends came for.
We’re here to say, “THIS WAR MUST STOP! BUSH HAS TO STOP KILLING OUR CHILDREN, HE HAS TO GO!”
JS: Thank you for your courage Sue. I am really glad there are people who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in.
SN: That’s what I’m here for, so that all the ones who can’t be here have a voice.
America, it’s up to us. We have to stop this killing now!
NO MORE! NOT ANOTHER DAY!
The cost of losing even one more life is just to high a price to pay. We have to stop this greed and sickness, it’s costing us our furture, and we have to keep living with the loss of our loved ones every day!
For more information on MFSO go to www.mfso.org
Jay Shaft is a freelance writer and the editor for an independent news group Coalition For Free Thought In Media. He has conducted many interviews with soldiers who have served in Iraq, in which service members exposed the issues of the military’s failure to provide proper equipment and training to US troops, and he has been on the forefront of investigating the price that soldiers are paying as a result. He has also published many letters and interviews from parents speaking out against the death or injury of their children serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Contact Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE:
• For Families of Some Killed in Iraq: Grief, Outrage and Protest http://newstandardnews.net/content/?action=show_item&itemid=705
• Fallen Soldier’s Mother Says Her Son ‘Died for Absolutely Nothing’ http://www.notinourname.net/troops/nothing-12feb04.htm