Anti-war protest draws more than 1,000

Tears streaming, Catherine Statz, a nurse from St. Paul, stood on the Lake Street-Marshall Avenue Bridge on Wednesday evening with more than 1,000 other war protesters.

Her sister, Patricia Statz, 41, was killed Sept. 11, 2001, while working at the Pentagon as a civilian employee with the U.S. Army.

Since then, her family has come to believe that her death and the deaths of thousands of others have been exploited.

"It’s horrible that President Bush uses Sept. 11 as his reason to be in the war," Catherine Statz said as passing cars tooted support for the protesters.

Organizers said there were nearly 1,200 of them. They held candles and placards on the bridge to show their support for the mother of a slain soldier who is holding a vigil near President Bush’s ranch in Texas.

The vigil was one of dozens in the metro area arranged by MoveOn.org, a website that organized similar protests across the nation.

From Stillwater to Eden Prairie to Minneapolis, thousands of people turned out to show they stand behind the cause of Cindy Sheehan, whose controversial stakeout at "Camp Casey" is drawing national attention.

For Statz, it’s a personal cause as well.

"I think we’re there because they’ve used Sept. 11 to move into Afghanistan and Iraq," she said. "It’s not about the price of oil, it’s about the control. It’s about getting a foothold in the Mideast."

Unable to stop crying, Statz, 50, hid her face behind her sign, which said, "U.S. Troops Out Now."

"It’s so sad," she said, "for our family to know that so many other families are going to be going through what we did — losing a loved one."

At the bridge, a couple of war supporters showed up briefly, toting a sign that said, "Kill Iraq." Many of the protesters said that they support U.S. troops in Iraq but that they want to bring them home.

John and Char Sokatch of St. Paul, who were at the bridge vigil with their 9-year-old daughter Zya and two neighbor children, said they came because they couldn’t afford to travel to Crawford, Texas, to rally with Sheehan.

Sydney Rose, 14, proudly toted a placard that read,"No more grieving mothers."

The St. Paul girl had come with her father, brother and a friend. While they were there, Sydney’s uncle, Darrel Pinkston of Savage, called her father, Dana Rose. The men have opposite stances on the war, yet are best of friends.

"I support freeing the Iraqi people from the tyrant Saddam," Pinkston said after Dana Rose handed his cell phone to a reporter. "I think it was a good and moral thing to do."

Retired Minneapolis pediatrician Dr. Sigrid Bachmann and her daughter, nurse Tanya Bachmann, were at the bridge vigil as well. They and others called Sheehan courageous. It’s a new anti-war movement fanned by the Internet, and one organized far more quickly than decades ago, when Bachmann first began protesting wars.

As a girl who lived in Berlin during World War II, she saw the hatred and prejudice foisted on the Jewish people, and then saw the smashed stores, the burned buildings and other horrors of war.

"War is extremely destructive of the souls of the people, or the buildings, or the land, of the Earth," she said. "One of the saddest things is the fate of the children in this time we’re living."

Vietnam veteran Steve Weeks of Minneapolis rode his bike to the vigil.

"This isn’t a war, this is a police action," said Weeks, who said he served in the Navy from 1964-67. "There’s no country we’re at war with. We don’t even know who we’re fighting."

Sue Ann Martinson of Minneapolis, shared that view. "There were no weapons of mass destruction, and the Iraqis didn’t have anything to do with 9-11," she said.

"This war has been disgraceful, with trumped up reasons."

Joy Powell is at jpowell@startribune.com.

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