Vietnam vets to join war protest outside USAREUR gates
HEIDELBERG, Germany — Anti-war activists launched a 24-hour vigil outside U.S. Army Europe headquarters Thursday evening marking the 12th anniversary of Desert Storm.
Among the protesters — who oppose future operations against Iraq — are U.S. Vietnam veterans from the Stop the War Brigade.
For Darnell Summers, 55, war protests began before he shipped out to Southeast Asia in 1968, when the anti-war movement paralleled civil rights protests.
“It’s important to pull the cover off this,” Summer said. “My generation is now promoting this war. We [Vietnam veterans] have the responsibility to come out and make a statement against it.”
The veterans group joined about 30 German peace activists for the vigil outside Campbell Barracks on Römerstrasse, which is also home to V Corps headquarters. In recent weeks, the corps ordered about 3,600 troops to deploy to the Persian Gulf region. The brigade often reaches out to soldiers in uniform — encouraging them to speak out against a war with Iraq, Summers said.
On Friday, the veterans will challenge V Corps commander Lt. Gen. William Wallace to a debate about a possible war with Iraq, Summers said.
Throughout Friday, the activists will rotate shifts to maintain a constant presence outside the base. On Saturday, a large demonstration is scheduled for downtown Heidelberg. Protesters plan to march from the city center, south to Campbell Barracks, where they will attempt to encircle the base, organizers said during a press conference Thursday.
Among the supporters are members of DGB, Germany’s union federation, said spokesman Harry Siegert. A petition opposing a U.S.-led war with Iraq is currently circulating among union laborers in factories across the country.
“We’re of the opinion that this war is not about freedom or terror,” Siegert said. “It’s about economic interests.”
The Army acknowledges the activists’ right to protest but U.S. officials will not interact with the demonstrators, said Sandy Goss, a spokesman for Installation Management Agency, Europe Region.
“They have the right to voice their opinion,” Goss said. “Reasonable people respect each other rights, and that people have different opinions.”
German police are handling security, he said. He would not comment on whether extra troops would be on hand. The Army added portable fencing to the front entrance of Campbell Barracks, Goss said.
On Friday, most soldiers and civilians will be taking advantage of a scheduled training holiday, Goss said.