Manassas Journal Messenger | Protesters mark war anniversary

Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, a philosophy emerged that the two superpowers that exist in the world are the United States and world public opinion.

Gregg Reynolds adopted that philosophy years ago, but tweaked it to say the peace movement is the second superpower.

As an exercise in that ideology, Reynolds and nine other people held signs along intersections over a three-day period in Fredericksburg, Manassas and Woodbridge to mark the third anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq.

“The peace movement has far more people than the military will ever have,” the 60-year-old Woodbridge resident said.

Reynolds, a Vietnam veteran, said he and his wife, Jean Reynolds, had been participating in similar vigils since before the war began, but that support for such activities increased from 12 percent three years ago to over 50 percent now.

Pam Harms, who co-organized the vigil, paced back and forth on the grass holding a sign detailing the amount of U.S. military lives lost in the war — which as of Saturday was 2,317, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualties.

“We don’t want to be out here,” she said. “But we feel like we had to be.”

Many people honked their horns and gave thumbs up in support for the group’s message during their two hours holding signs in the blistering cold at the intersection of Sudley Road and Rixlew Lane.

The cost in lives wasn’t Harms’ only concern, though. She contacted National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan organization, to find out what the cost was for Fredericksburg, roughly $17 million; Manassas, $52.4 million; and Woodbridge, $40.4 million.

“The taxpayers should know how their money is being spent,” she said. “Money that could be better spent elsewhere.”

Not everybody was copacetic with the group’s message, though. Several people shouted opposing remarks — remarks that included that the group was damaging troop morale.

“The negative response is just as good as the positive,” Reynolds said. “That means people are thinking about this.”

Harms, a Dumfries resident, said making people think about the war and creating local dialogue were the group’s two main missions.

Several of the signs had statistics written in bold paint, but Jean Reynolds chose to hold one that stated one of the most commonly made parallels: “Iraq=Vietnam.”

“Too many people are ignoring a lot of things going on in the world today,” she said. “Congressmen aren’t going to listen until they know people in their districts are against this [the war].”

Dozens of honking horns and yelping voices could be heard at the intersection of Minnieville Road and Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge as Harms, the Reynolds and several others who participated in the Manassas vigil regrouped Sunday.

“The response has been much more positive than yesterday,” Harms said. “I think there are a lot of people in Woodbridge who are against the war, but are just afraid to come out.”

The number of people participating also increased from 10 in Manassas to a little over a dozen in Woodbridge.

While a man who was stopped at a red light laid down his horn and signaled a peace sign to the group, Reynolds said the mild weather and good location had worked to the group’s benefit.

Several new faces were also there, including Ken Longmyer, a Democrat running in the 11th congressional district, and Bruce Smith, chairman of the Woodbridge Democratic Committee.

“I thought the war was a bad idea from the very beginning,” he said. “I think we need to start setting dates to get the troops out of there.”

Smith said he agreed with the war against al-Qaida, but that the war in Iraq hindered efforts to defeat the terrorist network.

“We had al-Qaida on the ropes and we let them go,” he said.

Harms said she hopes the vigils will encourage people to become more involved and added that she plans to continue her efforts in other areas in the state.

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