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Debate about war with Iraq takes to the streets

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

By Carmen J. Lee, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

About a dozen members of Carnegie Mellon University's College Republicans gathered around a flagpole at the center of campus yesterday to express their support for President Bush and American troops on the verge of war with Iraq.

Confusion reigned yesterday during a rally at Carnegie Mellon University as young Republicans demonstrating in support of the President's policy toward Iraq met up with students "committed to hijacking protests and campus tours." From left are CMU Republicans James Auwaerter, a sophomore, and Matt Merewitz, a sophomore. Both are George W. Bush supporters. At right is a student who did not identify himself or voice an opinion about Iraq. His sign shows support for Kevin Mitnick, who spent five years in federal prison after being convicted of computer crimes. (Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette)

While other Carnegie Mellon students enjoyed yesterday's spring-like weather by tossing Frisbees or strolling unhurriedly to class or lunch, the student Republican group welcomed lawyer John Pierce of Squirrel Hill as the speaker for their small rally. Pierce is the Republican candidate for Allegheny County treasurer and a former Army tank platoon commander.

Members also waited patiently, though with a trace of annoyance, as about 10 counter-demonstrators calling themselves KGB picketed with signs that appeared to have no relevance, like "You have a secret admirer -- in bed."

At one point, the KGB group marched in a circle around the flagpole and other students.

"It is my firm belief that it is a great mistake to hold firm beliefs," said one KGB member who identified himself as John Balthazar, only to later tell someone that his name was Ed. He said he was a sophomore at the university and that his group wasn't objecting to the College Republicans' position but was "committed to hijacking protests and college tours."

Although both groups avoided dwelling on criticism of each other, sophomore Suneal Chandran, 19, vice president of the College Republicans, alluded to the "loony left" as he insisted that there were other college students "who support America's fight against terrorism."

During his remarks, Pierce said it was important for the morale of American troops to have support from their country.

Referring to World War I and World War II, he noted, Western European countries twice made the mistake of not addressing threats to their security. That's why American security "is not subject to the approval" of the United Nations, Russia, Germany or France, he said.

Local anti-war protesters, however, are maintaining their momentum.

Students from the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts asked city school board members Monday night to endorse a resolution opposing any drain on education funding to support the war.

People have gathered regularly in front of the William S. Moorhead Federal Building, Downtown, with signs critical of war with Iraq, Bush and other federal officials.

The Thomas Merton Center and other groups objecting to war have scheduled a series of events that would start the day after a conflict begins.

They would include a noon interfaith prayer vigil at the Federal Building. Later that day, there would be a 5 p.m. protest at the building, which would involve marching on the sidewalks around the Federal Building and forming a circle around it.


Staff writers Torsten Ove and Lori Shontz contributed to this report. Carmen Lee can be reached at clee@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1884.

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