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War Sparks Conflicts in City

Antiwar Sentiment at Odds With Patriotic History

By Jeffrey C. Wu

As word of President Bush's decision to go to war in the Persian Gulf spread last week, gluing eyes to television sets across the nation, many Cambridge residents felt the tug of two opposing passions.

Traditionally one of the New England area's liberal strongholds, Cambridge was hotbed of the antiwar movement in the '60s. In the last six days, the city has retraced those roots, as schools, colleges and churches rallied against the war in large deminstrations and marches, calling on Bush to "bring the troops home."

But many residents still reflect the city's patriotic fervor and traditional support for the military--which dates back as far as the Revolutionary War.

These residents have rallied around the troops, which include an estimated 50 sons and daughters of Cambridge, and are calling for a decisive military victory in the Gulf.

Cambridge's City Council unanimously called for a total withdrawal of troops last weeks even as the Bush administration was readying the war effort, reflects some of this division.

"I think that it's important we support the troops that are over there, [because] you look back at history, at 1936, what Hitler did," said Councillor Timothy J. Toomey. "No one took him seriously and look at the consequences of that."

"These demonstrators I don't support at all," said Toomey, who actively supported a total U.S. with-drawal from the Gulf last Monday. "I think they have ulterior motives, just to cause trouble. They're for peace, and they break windows and impede people getting to work."

But Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves '72 said he remains in adamant opposition to the conflict.

"My general concern is that Operation Desert Storm is a really unfortunate example of an inability to use diplomacy in an effective manner," he said. "Personally I believe that everybody wants peace. It suggests to me a real breakdown in leadership down the board."

Generation Gap?

To some, Cambridge's divided opinions on the conflict indicate more than a split between hawks and doves. According to former mayor Alfred E. Vellucci, Cambridge's peace demonstrators are composed almost entirely of the city's young.

"The protestors are a lot of young people. I don't think they're against the war, they're against all this violence that is going on all over the world," he said. "They don't see any sense to it. They're involved in the Earth, they're involved to stop making nuclear bombs. They're the ones that are going to change the world."

City councillor Walter J. Sullivan said he agreed that it was mostly the young that were protesting the war, but said that the divisions reflected more than simple age differences, but differing ties and commitments to the city.

"The older people wouldn't be doing this," he said of the peace marches. "They'd be supporting the troops. The whole city was always a patriotic city."

"[The protesters] don't just come from Cambridge, they come from all over [Boston]. They're not real Cambridge people. They just moved into the city a few years ago. They stay around for a few years, get their degrees, and move on."

Sullivan, along with Toomey, was one of only a pair of councillors who opposed a resolution last week to put a banner up in front of City Hall, calling on the U.S. to bring its troops home.

Sullivan's analysis of the city's war mood, however, is not universally shared. Others offer a socio-economic explanation for the city's division.

"A lot of [Central Square working-class] people here are really upset that a lot of money is going to be spent there and not over here," said Bill Cavellini, a Cambridge taxi driver for 17 years and local activist for 17 years. "The feedback I'm getting is: dammit, we've got drugs and we've got crime here and we've got a terrible situation in Massachusetts, and it may not get better for five years and we need the money here. I think that's class-based and I think It's racially based.

Councillor Jonathan S. Myers, a relative newcomer to Cambridge who flew to Washington last week on behalf of the City Council to urge Bush to negotiate a peace, said he sharply disagreed with Sullivan's explanation. It is still far too early to gauge the city's mood accurately, Myers said.

"I think that's a very superficial analysis," Myers said when told of Sullivan's remarks. "That's a pretty cynical attempt to put division within the city."

"I certainly know many long-term residents of the city who feel that we should have had retraint. We had nine councillors who joined in agreement two days before the war urging restraint and calling on the President not to go to war. There wasn't that kind of [division] one week ago," he said.

"I don't think you have had enough time to judge where everybody in Cambridge is at, I think the test is how long [the war is] going to last."

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