Anti-War Protestors Hold Last Peace Vigil (VIDEO)

They had been on the corner of Route 59 on Saturdays for the past nine-plus years at the Clarkstown Korean War Veterans Memorial Park


About nine years ago, or more accurately, 476 Saturdays ago, a group of about 50 people stood on the corner of Route 59 and Middletown Road in Nanuet in protest of the United States going to war with Iraq, which they felt was coming imminently. 

“People threw things at us, people cursed at us and yelled to move to France,” said Mark Deats, of New City, one of people standing in Nanuet from 1 to 3 p.m. each Saturday. 

But as the Saturdays went on, the group, known as the Rockland Coalition For Peace & Justice, noticed a change in noise. No longer was there as much yelling, but instead, people were honking, as a large number of people in the group held up “Honk For Peace” signs. 

With the last combat troops being pulled out of Iraq in late December, the Coalition held its final peace vigil on the Nanuet corner this past Saturday. They had been out there on Saturdays for nine years and one month, said Nancy Tsou, coordinator of the group and one of the founders. 

“We started out here before the war started, but we could see it coming,” she said. “We felt like we should not just go bomb anybody.”

It started with a bus-full of local residents who drove down to Washington D.C. to protest the war there as part of a larger effort. On the bus ride back, someone asked if they should start holding protests locally, and everyone thought it was a good idea, Tsou said. 

The first few times out, she estimated there were between 50-60 people, but said over the years, the crowds got as big as around 300 people. At the final vigil, there were at least 50. 

On their corner, they had anti-war signs and handed out literature about why they were against the war to people walking by and cars stopped at red lights. Tsou said she thinks the group’s efforts did help change public opinion on the war. 

“Collectively as a group, we did a lot more than we could’ve got done individually,” she said. “What we did was small, but I think significant.”

Danny Gormley, of New City, is a Vietnam veteran and has been joining the Saturday protests for about seven years. 

“At least for me, after being in a war, you start questioning all wars after it,” he said. “You see that sometimes they’re based on lies, deception and profit for the few. I also don’t think a lot of people see the price soldiers in war pay down the line after it’s ended, and that their families pay.”

Betsy Thomason, of Park Ridge, NJ, has a son in the Air Force currently, but she has been attending the protests for a few years. 

“I consider myself militant about peace, but I do want to honor the fact that he is serving,” she said. 

After the two-hour demonstration Saturday, the group moved a few feet away from the corner of Middletown and Route 59 to a patch of grass on 59. There Tsou and a few others thanked everyone for their work throughout the past nine-plus years and then they sang a few songs. Thomason played recorder along with Susan Gorman, of Stony Point, on guitar. They sang four songs, including “This Land Is Your Land” and Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind.”

Tsou said the group will still remain active, and in the coming weeks they’re looking to have a meeting to discuss where to go from here. She said there’s a lot of issues the members of the group are passionate about, and they’ll try to figure out what direction to move in. 

Also on Saturdays, on the opposite corner across Middletown Road, on that corner of Middletown and Route 59, a group has stood there with “Support The Troops” signs. Paul Murray, of New City, said he’s been attending their demonstrations since about March 2003, and they plan on continuing. 

“We’ve still got people in Afghanistan, so we’ll keep coming out here to show our support,” he said.

Gus Wynn January 03, 2012 at 12:17 AM
If you observe the CONSTITUTION, you know the Iraq war was unconstitutional - it violated the Geneva Convention preventing invasion of a sovereign nation, the Military Field Manual was violated in waterboarding and sexually violating detainees. This also violated The International Convention on Torture (signed by Reagan) and the whole entire war violated the AUMF because it did not fulfill the conditions it stated justifying military force - no clear and present danger, no WMD, no UN resolution, no nothing. If you blind, blind supporters of war put down your Soldier of Fortune magazines, you would see the country of Iraq was carved up by billionaires and the US military was exploited to secure private profits. ExxonMobil and Halliburton got huge contracts for oil development in post-war Iraq, but a lot went to LUKOIL, the Russian oil provider. The US taxpayer funded operation OIL (Operation Iraq Liberation) to get Saddam out so the oil companies could come in. Mission Accomplished except for the debt left behind for taxpayers, topping $850 billion - where is that money going to come from if the billionaires aren't patriotically paying their fair share.
Chris N January 03, 2012 at 05:24 AM
Nobody wants war. But unfortunately it is sometimes the only way to bring about peace. You can't play in the sandbox with the likes of Hussein, and Khadafy, and bin Laden and Ahmadinajed. These people are madmen who do not value life. They think nothing of oppressing and killing their own people. You can't reason with them. Was Saddam ready to talk about peace and love when he sent thousands of Iraqis to the gas chambers? Do we wait for Iran to build nukes and wipe Israel off the map as Ahmadinajed has promised to do? Or do we take action before he has an opportunity to do that? Which do you think will cost more lives in the long run?
Gus Wynn January 04, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Chris N, you are wrong in saying "nobody wants war" - unlike WWII, we have a profit motive today - the richest zipcode in the nation is now in VA where war contractors live, overtaking the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. The US has been negotiating with dictators for decades - Reagan made deals with both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, he gave them US taxpayer money to fight Iran and the USSR. Saddam killed Iraqi Kurds with American WMD, supplied by Reagan in violation of 1925 Geneva Protocol against chemical weapons. Ahmadinijhad's military capability is nothing compared to ours and he is fully contained - he lost the support of his people in the 2011 protests of his stolen election with Iranians demonstrating by the hundreds of thousands. He is also wholly subordinate to the council of Mullahs who truly run Iran. You are quoting a mistranslation - Ahmahdinijhad is a holocaust denier and homophobe, but he never said HE would "wipe Israel off the map", he said "The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time". The drooling war lobbyists, Fox News and the GOP candidates have Americans so brainwashed, they don't even know Iran requested new nuke talks three days ago with the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. Saddest of all is that even if we did need to begin a new war with a legitimate enemy, we haven't got the money to pay for it, why do you guys keep insisting on borrowing MORE against our kids futures?
Percy Marvelous January 04, 2012 at 10:59 AM
Sigh....The anti-war protestors are not going away. They are changing their name to Occupy Route 59 and they will continue to spout their nonsense. Nancy Tsou and her husband Len have a car with plates that say "VIVA CHE". Hmmmm...... The 9/11 Truthers will still be out there blathering about the governments involvement in taking down the World Trade Center. The far lefties will continue to be anti-Israel and spout their antisemitic drivel. Whether you call it a liberal, progressive, or socialist, it is still a mentally ill person who is quite delusional. Forget discussions with lefties as they eventually resort to name calling and throwing tantrums. The only way to deal with them is to expose their lies and marginalize them.
Gus Wynn January 04, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Percy, if you are criticizing a group for name calling as you yourself call them "mentally ill" without basis, you are exactly what you complain about. In the group you insult and dismiss as "delusional", there are veterans, fiscal conservatives, independents and military families - real Americans - so let's debate issues, not hurl attacks and smears. Remember the whole world can see this exchange, including impressionable kids, so let's try to be civil as we debate real issues concretely. First, start with your "anti-semitic" comment - I'm offended as a Jewish person that you think protesting the Iraq war makes you anti-semitic, but as an Eisenhower Republican, I also am offended that you would put American children in debt to intervene in a sovereign state overseas. Can you explain how you propose our kids will be paying for the Iraq war now that the $850 billion in debt is starting to accumulate interest. Since Wall Street collapsed the economy, unemployment skyrocketed and these kids are going to be left holding the bag for war spending and the Bush tax cuts which added $700 billion to the deficit. Should I say you hate children, or should we have a more civil, logical discussion?


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