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Lockheed target of anti-war protest

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By Amy Ryffel-Kragh

They came from all over to voice their stand on war. And, it wasn’t hard to hear message loud and clear.

Members of groups from Marions for Peace, Veterans for Peace, the St. Augustine People for Peace and Justice and others, gathered outside of Lockheed Martin in Silver Springs Shores to protest the current war between Israel and Palestine. The demonstration was in conjunction with protests staged nationwide on Dec. 30, 2008.

The Hellfire missiles that have been used by Israel might have been produced at the Ocala plant, said Delphine Blachowicz Herbert of Marions for Peace, via e-mail. She called the fact the United States provides arms to all sides “hideous.”

As some demonstrators chanted at the passing vehicles, other Marions for Peace held up their signs of protest.

Oak Run resident Lee Wiggins came to the event with her husband, Jerry Janiszewski. Wiggins, a Marions for Peace member, said she is saddened that we have lost a sense of morality. “This country unfortunately is supplying the missiles and supplying the money,” said the retired nurse, so, in fact, “we are doing this” by being an intermediate.

Wiggins said she is hopeful that President-elect Obama will make the United States’ support of Palestine and Israel more equal. “Right now anything that Israel does is apparently okay with the United States,” she said.

In addition to a good attendance at the rally, Herbert was thrilled with the number of younger people who attended, like Central Florida Community College student Cameron Halas. The young Iraq veteran said he wanted to come to the rally because he supports anything involving peace. He said he “owes” it to his fellow Army soldiers.

Halas was featured in the school’s newspaper, Patriot Press, and gave a talk on his experience in the war at CFCC. He has also protested the Iraq war at a Veterans for Peace rally in Gainesville.

Rollins College student Fatema Kermalli thought it was important to attend the rally, because of what is happening in Israel and Gaza. The student, who is the president of the Society for Justice in Palestine at Rollins, said a lot of people simply are not aware of the war. With so many people being killed, Kermalli wanted to stand up and say something about it.

Lockheed Martin is the largest defense company in the world. It was recently granted $100,000 property tax exemption by the Marion County Commission without the input of the public, Herbert said.

To try to cover a $2 billion budget deficit, the Florida legislature is expected to approve an additional $400,000 in order to upgrade Lockheed’s local production capacity during its January special session, she said.