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Peace prompts turnout

About 30 Whidbey Island residents and a giant “peace dove” made from re-used bed sheets and chicken wire stood at the busy Highway 20 intersection in Coupeville Saturday to protest the war in Iraq.

Across the world, hundreds of thousands of people marked the two-year anniversary of the start of the war by taking to the streets with signs. Most, however, probably weren’t as peaceful and congenial as the spectacle in Coupeville.

“We’re really here to witness for peace,” said Coupeville resident Jack Tingstad, who organized the day. He’s been somewhat of a sign-waving, peace-loving fixture at the intersection since the nation’s conflicts have escalated over the last four years.

“We just want to make people aware that there are alternatives to war,” he said, “and peace can happen.”

Tingstad was joined by a cross-section of local folks who decry the war. Perhaps the most effective of the protesters were two former military men. Tim Deoitte served as an Army infantryman in Vietnam and saw some hard times. Virtually his entire squad got killed while he was there; he was involved in the bloody fighting near Cambodia.

Deoitte said he’s been involved in protests since the beginning of the war in Iraq and he’s really seen public attitudes changed. Early on, he said a lot of people were angry and rude toward war protesters. But not anymore.

“Ninety-nine percent of people are positive,” he said. “I really see the country turning against the war, the same way they did in Vietnam.”

Joe Heikkila, a former Army lieutenant, also sees similarities between the war in Iraq and Vietnam. Like the original quagmire, Heikkila just doesn’t see a way that America can win in Iraq.

“The purpose of the war is not for the good of the general public,” he said. “It’s for the benefit of big oil companies and big business.”

Along with the veterans, the most eye-catching part of the protest was undoubtedly the giant white dove made from recycled and re-used materials.

Che Gilliland said she was inspired to make the big bird by famed primatologist Jane Goodall’s Giant Peace Dove Campaign. On International Peace Day, which is Sept. 21 of every year, people around the world make and “fly” the huge bird puppets.

Gilliland said the dove was challenging to make, but it fit the day’s theme of peace. Since she couldn’t find an olive branch, Riel Holbrook fitted the bird with a lilac branch in the beak.

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