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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Demonstrators urge peace outside Coast Guard Academy graduation

    Demonstrators gather at McKinley Park outside the Coast Guard Academy graduation day Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day).
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    Sister Claire Carter, left, of New England Peace Pagoda in Leverett, Mass. and Lay Person Andrea Lynn, of Padanarama Village, Mass. pray for peace with demonstrators outside the Coast Guard Academy graduation Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day).
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    Jim Pandaru, of West Haven and Jim Brasile, of Newington, with Veterans for Peace, and fellow demonstrators gather outside the Coast Guard Academy graduation Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day).
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    Sue Frankewicz, front left, of Noank, and Eric Wasileski, of Pittsfield, Mass., with the group Veterans for Peace, sing the song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” while they and others demonstrate outside the Coast Guard Academy graduation Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day).
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    Joanne Sheehan, right, of Norwich, with War Resisters League, demonstrates outside the Coast Guard Academy graduation Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day).
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    New London ― Sue Frankewicz of Noank found a shady spot on a grass patch off Williams Street on Wednesday and held a sign reading “We are all one family, all of us.”

    The message was a supportive nod to immigrants seeking refuge in the United States.

    Frankewicz joined with a group of two dozen demonstrators on Wednesday at McKinley Park to greet visitors walking into the U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduation ceremony, where the keynote speaker was Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

    The demonstration is an annual event that draws an eclectic group of people holding signs that typically generate conversations and sometimes arguments from passersby.

    “People all love to talk about peace, but what are you doing,” said Frankewicz, a retired medical social worker, when asked about the reason she was protesting.

    This year’s gathering included representatives from the Veterans for Peace, whose members have embarked on a 700-mile “Walk for Peace and Planet, Justice and Democracy,” that started in Ogunquit, Maine and will end in Washington, D.C.

    Eric Wasileski of Pittsfield, Mass., a U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Iraq war, is participating in the walk which he called a “peace pilgrimage. He said the message is a simple one of peace and the promotion of pacifism and nonviolence.

    “If violence worked, it would have worked a long time ago,” Wasileski said.

    Nearby, Sister Clare Carter, who is a member of the New England Peace Pagoda in Leverett, Mass., chanted a 13th-century peace prayer while twirling a handheld peace drum. Others at Wednesday’s demonstration called for an end to the bloodshed in Gaza, holding signs reading “Food + Water not bombing and slaughter,” “Ceasefire Now” and “No tax $$$ for genocide in Gaza!”

    Tarak Kauff, 82, of Woodstock, N.Y., a former U.S. Army paratrooper and founder of Veterans for Peace, said the existential threats facing humanity ― the probability of nuclear war and the destruction of the environment ― are becoming more extreme. He denounced the U.S. for sending billion of citizens’ tax dollars to Israel to fund weapons being used to kill thousands of people in Gaza.

    “We could be doing so much here with that money. There is so much need. This is insanity,” Kauff said.

    Members of Veterans for Peace had joined with local activists on Tuesday to visit U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney’s office in Norwich and hold a vigil at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton. Later on Wednesday, demonstrators planned peace vigils in downtown New London and outside the gates of General Dynamic’s Electric Boat offices on Pequot Avenue.

    g.smith@theday.com

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