Sailor brings anti-war talk to Erie

From, the Erie Times-News online, published January 21, 2008 6:00 a.m.
by Sarah Weber

Anti-war advocate Jonathan Hutto's message about ending the war in Iraq rang in about 75 peoples' ears Sunday night at the Erie Art Museum Annex on Fifth Street.

And his call to action in the remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. rang in their hearts.

The Erie Peace Initiative hosted Hutto for a two-hour talk at the museum.

Hutto, 30, spoke about King, the war in Iraq, social injustice and the need for people to take action in their own communities.

He is on active duty with the U.S. Navy and uses his personal time to voice opposition to the Iraq war.

There was a mix of generations at the 3 p.m. talk, and many people in the crowd responded aloud or with a nod to points made in the speech.

Devon Heberle, a 10th-grade student at Mercyhurst Prep, said he attended the speech with family members who support the anti-war movement.

"How the people that were here responded to his speech" was inspiring, he said. He said he discusses his opposition to the war in class debates, and Hutto's speech will help inform his future comments.

"I hope that the No. 1 thing people take away from it is the legacy of Dr. King in total," Hutto said. "A lot of people want to segregate Dr. King's message."

Hutto said the civil rights leader's positions on the economy and social injustice informed his opposition to the war in Vietnam -- just as Hutto's position in the military informed his own views about the war in Iraq.

He called on the crowd to help organize the peace movement and called on them to get involved in community action.

"Join an organization," he said. "It can be your local peace initiative, the PTA, the local boys and girls club. You have to get out in your community."

Hutto also said it was also important for Americans to ask critical questions.

"Why do we live in a society where 1 percent of the people own 58 percent of the wealth," he asked. "Why is there a $70 billion war budget, yet our government doesn't pass $35 million for children's health insurance?"

Anne McCarthy, the chairwoman of the Erie Peace Initiative, said she was pleased with the event.

"It was important for (the crowd) to hear the message and the context of it," McCarthy said.

She said the Erie Peace Initiative is planning an event to mark the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq in March.

SARAH WEBER can be reached at 870-1854 or by e-mail.

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