Protest Links Afghan War, City Budget Cuts

Melinda Tuhus PhotoFour men stood in front of City Hall with signs calling for redirecting military spending to meet human needs at home. Why weren’t more people joining them?

“What do you think this is—Cairo?” joked Henry Lowendorf (pictured), chair of the Greater New Haven Peace Council, which had called the demo Friday afternoon.

Not Cairo—and not Madison, Wisconsin, either, where tens of thousands of union members and their supporters have gathered at the state capitol over the past several days to oppose the new Republican governor’s efforts to strip public employee unions of collective bargaining rights.

But that didn’t mean the small, quiet protest in New Haven Friday didn’t garner local support. Its message: If the country didn’t spend so much money fighting wars abroad, it would have more to spend at home—and avoid the kind of police and school cutbacks facing cities like New Haven.

New Havener Deborah Taylor (pictured) was passing City Hall with her toddler, Hunter, in tow. She said she “absolutely agrees” with the sentiments on the signs the protesters were holding. “More money is going to war and less to public education,” she said.

Taylor said she worries about the quality of education that will be available to “my little guy” in a few years. Plus, her husband is a teacher.

She said a second concern is the environment; the House Republican leadership in Congress is trying to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, which is in charge of ensuring clean air and clean water. “We need to go to clean energy, and I don’t mean ‘clean’ oil or ‘clean’ coal,” Taylor said. “If you don’t have your environment, you have nothing.”

Lowendorf engaged her in conversation about the extension of tax cuts for the wealthy that President Obama signed off on in December, and the freeze on federal government workers’ salaries that Lowendorf argued amounts to a tax increase for middle-class workers. She nodded in agreement.

The protesters point out that Mayor John DeStefano is calling for belt-tightening among city workers to bridge a $5.5 million gap in the current year’s budget and a projected $22 million gap in the next fiscal year’s.  Meanwhile, according to the National Priorities Project, New Haven taxpayers will pay $84 million for FY2011 in total Iraq and Afghanistan war spending—or $1,766 per household— which is “more than enough to cover the projected budget deficit,” Lowendorf said.

His group is calling for an end to the wars, bringing the troops home and funding local needs.

Maureen Fisher (pictured) lives in West Haven and works at a bank near City Hall. On her way home Friday, she stopped to say that instead of spending billions on “unnecessary” wars, “We should be spending more money on our children and families. When I walk here in the mornings, I see people who have nowhere to go. We need to build shelters for them. And also we need to not lay off the police officers. We need them,” Fisher said.

Right on cue, a New Haven cop pulled up in his cruiser to take care of an errand inside City Hall. That was the only information he’d share with a reporter. He declined to make any comment on the protest.

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posted by: Seth Godfrey on February 21, 2011  2:10pm

Melinda, thanks for this great article and bringing to the attention of the public one of the major factors contributing to New Havens budget crisis.
As a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission I would like to extend an invitation to folks to come testify at a Public Hearing we are holding on the adverse affects of military spending on senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how this money should be redirected to funding social needs
in New Haven. The hearing will take place March 23 at 5:30 at City Hall, 165 Church Street in Room 1. Christopher Hellman from the National Priorities Project ( will be present to give testimony as to the devastating affects of the military budget as it impacts our city.
Any questions feel free to contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
See you on March 23!

posted by: Sherman Malone on February 26, 2011  9:48pm

Dear New Haven Independent,
You are the freedom of information the rest of the world is longing for. Thank you. Melinda Tuhus’ story is about our shared financial (and moral)responsibility.It is the story the world needs to understand to guide our progress toward real democracy. We need oppose war and to fund our own basic needs and those of our brothers and sisters far away. 

Sherman Malone

posted by: Julia Biagiarelli on February 27, 2011  2:29pm

Thanks, Seth, for letting us know about the hearing on March 23.
See you there,
Sister Julia

posted by: Leonard C. Yannielli on February 27, 2011  3:29pm

Yes. Same concerns are being voiced up in the Naugatuck Valley. Stop the wars and there would be the funds to cover the budget deficit in our town and state. We are trying to get wind energy established here in Prospect. It will mean clean energy, saving land that would be sprawled and many green jobs. Federal funds are necessary so stopping the wars would release the money for these much needed projects.

Thanks for covering this important action.

posted by: Mary Compton on February 27, 2011  9:19pm

New Haven Independent~Thank you for the coverage of citizens taking action against the funding of wars, however small their numbers.  Responsible citizen participation of questioning how our tax dollars are spent should be recognized and covered by local media. Isn’t this part of a participatory democracy; questioning and having public discourse on these very important issues of where our tax dollars go and how our communities will develop and be affected?  The majority of our tax dollars is spent on funding military defense and interest on military debt. Cutting funding of astronomical military spending is essential to designate funds for the human needs of our community; shelter, a safe place to live, food, health insurance and a living wage job.