Memorial Steps Host Iraq War Vigil

Tiny tealights flickered on the steps of Memorial Church last night, the wind choking a flame every now and then, as students remembered the soldiers and civilians who had been killed in the war in Iraq.

The vigil was one in a series of campus events staged by student groups to mark the fourth anniversary of the war’s beginning.

At the vigil, students read statements written by friends of slain American soldiers, followed by a short silence from the audience, which numbered more than 50.

Earlier, members of the Harvard College Democrats and other students spent six hours reading a list of the dead.

The list included the names of 3,200 Iraqis and 3,200 American soldiers obtained from two casualty Web sites, and was far from complete due to the large number of unidentified casualties in Iraq, said Jillian K. Swencionis ’08, political director for the Dems.

“Today is the day to remember what’s happened rather than to make political statements,” said Garrett G.Dash Nelson ’09, the Dems’ communications director and a Crimson editorial editor. “It’s interesting to see how many people are surprised to see that the war has been going on for four years. We want to make sure people don’t wake up in the morning without remembering what’s going on in Iraq.”

The name reading was a relatively quiet counterpart to a rally earlier yesterday afternoon in front of the Science Center.

Students from the Harvard Republican Club (HRC) competed to out-chant students from the Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice (HIPJ). The 10-minute contest ended when HRC stopped yelling slogans.

HRC President Jeffrey Kwong ’09 said he wanted to show support for the troops.

“We wanted to make sure that students and Harvard community know that the Republican Club is right behind the troops. [Anti-war protestors] are not supporting the idea of fighting terrorism,” he said. “We support our troops, and we support the fight against terrorism. We want victory.”

Meanwhile, HIPJ members handed out anti-war patches and posters.

“We want people to wear and post their anti-war voice to show decision-makers our dissent,” said Kaveri Rajaraman, a third-year graduate student of molecular and cellular biology and an HIPJ member.

Amar Abbas, a German visitor whose family lives in Iraq, said he appreciated the anti-war protests.

“It’s really exciting to see students demonstrating after four years of craziness in Iraq,” he said.

Karen Carmean and Doane Perry, a Cantabrigian couple, joined in the protest.

Carmean pointed to her sign, which read, “QUAKERS FOR PEACE.”

We’ve been here for peace for many years, even before the war broke out,” she said. “This sign is very worn out.”