Peace demonstration at West Point marks debate day

By Steve Lieberman, Lohud

WEST POINT – Nearly a dozen peace advocates sang and waved banners and signs outside the gates to the United States Military Academy Monday in an action timed to conincide with the evening’s presidential debate.

The peaceful demonstration marked an international day dedicated to “stop the imperial wars” as the country prepared to watch the evening’s faceoff between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, both of whom own homes in Westchester County.

The protest military action is one of 650 that organizers say are planned across the country this week and follows the “No War – 2016” conference held during the weekend by World Beyond War in Washington, D.C. Protesters planned to hold a similar demonstration outside the Pentagon on Monday.

At West Point, the activists stood on Main Street across from the Thayer Gate Deli & Cafe, near the main entrance to the military grounds. Members participating, Granny Peace Brigade and Concerned Families of Westchester.

“Stop the genocide of the Muslim people,” one large banner read.

“War is nothing but a racket,” read another. Some held pictures of children killed in military actions.

Andrew Courtney of Croton-on-Hudson said he objected to how United States’ history and West Point have romanticized war.

“The reality of wars has to come from the people who suffered, including our own people,” he said, citing conflicts from Vietnam to Iraq. “The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is the centerpiece of the U.S. Army efforts for centuries. It’s a racket how its presented in glossy romantic visions.”

The protesters planned to give the superintendent of West Point a letter asking him to teach students the evils of “imperial wars” and how to be conscientious objectors.

Nick Mottern, coordinator of, said he served in the Navy in 1962 and believed what the government told him at the time about the conflict. He said the West Point protest comes in solidarity with similar demonstations at the Pentagon and across the nation.

“I was ashamed when I got back and learned what was really going on,” he said, adding the United States needs to demilitarize its foreign policy and stop supporting imperial war and oligartchy special interests.

Another protester, Bennett Weiss of Stony Point, planned to go from West Point to Hofstra later in the day, where he hoped to get arrested as part of a demonstration there. He was offering others rides to Long Island but wryly noting he could not guarantee them a ride home.

Weiss said protesters Monday night hope to influence the moderator to ask Clinton and Trump on their views of war, saying both candidates back Wall Street and special interests.

At least two people living and working in Highland Falls said they had no problems with the demonstrations, which are not new to West Point.

“It’s the American way,” said Rome Hunter, who works in the deli. “As long as they are peaceful that’s what it’s all about.”

Jerry Nasi, 21, another deli employee, said he understood the protestors point about innocent people being killed in bombing raids and drone attacks.

“They are probably right about the bombing in the Middle East,” Nasi said. “I don’t blame them for their concern about the innocent people who die.”

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