BANGOR, Maine — Several Mainers were part of a veteran-heavy contingent of nonviolent protesters who converged Thursday on Washington, D.C., to call for an end to the war in Afghanistan.
Dud Hendrick of Deer Isle, Robert Shetterly of Brooksville, Ron Warner of Bangor and Bruce Gagnon of Brunswick joined well-known peace activist Daniel Ellsberg and others in the protest at the White House.
Ellsberg, who gained fame in the early 1970s for leaking the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, was among dozens arrested for protesting. It’s not clear whether any Maine residents were arrested.
In Bangor, a handful of activists and members of the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine rallied outside the federal building to show support for the protesters in Washington.
“This is about them. They are standing there for all of us,” said Ilze Petersons, director of the Peace and Justice Center. “The point of nonviolent civil disobedience is to remind and motivate people to do something, to stand for what they believe in.”
Holding signs that stated “How is the war economy working for you?” “Make Jobs Not War” and “Bring our war dollars home,” the local protesters highlighted what they view as the prohibitive budget impact of the continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
More than half of the federal discretionary budget is spent on the military, according to the protesters. If just 25 percent of that number were cut, they said, it would create a surplus of $175 billion that could provide insurance for 40 million people, build or renovate 20,000 schools or offer college scholarships to 8.5 million pro-spective students.
At a news conference before Thursday’s protest in Washington, Ellsberg praised WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who is suspected of giving WikiLeaks thousands of sensitive U.S. documents. WikiLeaks, he said, has revealed the documented horrors of war.
He said the men were no more deserving of prosecution than The New York Times, which published the Pentagon Papers in 1971, or Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward for helping uncover the Watergate conspiracy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.