HIGHLAND PARK, NJ—It was an emotionally-charged evening at Marc’s Place Coffeehouse on November 15 at the Reformed Church of Highland Park.
This gathering was dedicated to discussing the recent events going on the Ukraine, where both the U.S. and Russian has been involved in the recent Ukrainian civil war.
The guest speakers at this meeting were Joe Lombardo, Co-Coordinator for the United National Antiwar Coalition and member of the CSEA local 999 and delegate to the Troy Labor Council in upstate NY, and Sam Friedman, a member of the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War.
Friedman said that the U.S. and Russian interventions in Ukraine have increased the political and social tension among the Ukrainian people. “The U.S. and Russian Oligarchs are fighting for economic and political control of Ukraine,” Friedman said.
Friedman said the U.S. and Russian need to stay out of Ukraine in order for peace to be achieved.
“It is simple, let eastern Ukraine form a separate country,” Friedman said.
“The problem is the U.S. and the government in Kiev won’t allow it.” According to The Washington Post, the United States and NATO are providing more than $100 million in military assistance to the Ukrainian government.
According to Reuters, Ukraine had lost over $10 billion in lost resources when Russia annexed the Crimea region.
“We are doing everything we can to stave off wars especially in Ukraine that is the goal of the United National Anti-war Coalition,” Lombardo said.
Friedman said that the Ukrainian crisis stemmed from the Maidan Revolutions of 2013-2014.
According to Vice.com, the Ukrainian revolution started last year when the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych decided to pull out of a deal that would have brought the country closer to joining the European Union (EU).
Lombardo said that Russia feels threatened by the United States and European Union’s recent political and military encroachment in Ukraine as well as the rest of Eastern Europe and that is why it is intervening in Eastern Ukraine.
Friedman said that there was an agreement that stated that the U.S. was not supposed to have a military presence in Eastern Europe.
“The American military presence in Ukraine and Eastern Europe will only lead to war,” Friedman said. According to the German newspaper Deutsche Welle, in 1997, NATO and Russia signed an agreement in which the Western alliance agreed not permanently station a substantial number of combat troops in Eastern Europe.
Friedman’s passion for the anti-war movement goes back to his days protesting the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis as well as the Vietnam War.
“I originally got involved in anti-war activities out of the insanity of the nuclear face off in the late fifties,” Friedman said. “U.S. policy made no sense, nor did Russian.”
Friedman said he joined the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War in the fall of 2001 after taking part in a vigil to protest the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
“I read about its vigil against the occupation of Iraq some months after it started, and joined in,” Friedman said. “After some months, I started attending Coalition planning meetings and have been active in it ever since.”
The meeting started with some singing and guitar playing by Ingrid Heldt a singer-songwriter for peace and the environment.
She sang several moving songs such as “One can change the world,” “Think about these things,” “Dear Mr. President,” “Love Matters,” and “Soon we will have peace,” which was sung in seven different languages.
The next anti-war vigil being sponsored by the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War will be held on Saturday December 6 at 11:30 a.m.
The vigil will take place on Route 27/Albany Street Bridge, connecting New Brunswick and Highland Park. The vigil was dedicated to commemorate the soldiers who were killed after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003.