By Dan Marrin
TIMES SQUARE — About 100 people gathered in Times Square Friday afternoon to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan.
The group was split between young protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement and older anti-war activists from New York religious and civil-rights groups. The two groups found common cause in protesting the amount of money and human lives lost in the Afghan war.
A decade ago Friday, the U.S. entered Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom, less than a month after 9/11.
Protester Phyllis Rodriguez, 68, said she remembered the start of the war clearly.
“From the beginning, they said [the war] was being done for the victims of 9/11, ” said Rodriguez, whose son worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and died along with 700 coworkers in the Twin Towers.
In spite of that, Rodriguez and her husband sent a letter to friends and family just days after the attacks, pleading against “revenge” attacks against nations harboring terrorists.
“These wars are like video games to many Americans," she said. "They don’t [think about] the lives that are being lost.”
Protester Joan Wile, 80, said she began her anti-war activism after seeing a photo of a 12-year old Baghdad boy who’d lost most of his limbs after U.S. bombings. Friday’s protest was just one of hundreds that Wile and her group, Grandmothers Against the War, have helped organize.
She and her fellow demonstrators began weekly anti-war vigils at Rockefeller Center in 2004, which have gone on every week since. Initially, the group was only focused on Iraq, but over time they added the war in Afghanistan to their protests.
“The first years in 2004 and 2005, we would get heckled," Wile said. "That stopped after a while, and now more often than not, we’ll get a thumbs-up from the people passing by.”
She explained that the group's usual anti-war vigils bring out some 40 to 50 people, but that the demonstrators from Occupy Wall Street helped double the size of Friday's anniversary protest.
However, Wile said she was still “disappointed” to not see more.
“It’s nice to get a hundred people," she said, "but we’re hoping for thousands.”
Longtime anti-war activist David McReynolds, 80, of the War Resisters League, commented on the age gap between the Occupy Wall Street crowd and the older war protesters.
“You know, in the '60s, the older activists said we reminded them of the protests from the '30s. And then the protests in the '70s they said reminded them of the '60s.” he said.
“As I look at you today, I’m reminded that there always will be a spirit of activism alive and well in this country.”