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Queens Bush critics protest Iraq, Social Security plans

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Amid chants of "You say, 'Bring it On,' We say, 'Bring them home,'" more than 20 protesters rallied on the steps of Borough Hall last Thursday, saying that they wanted to shift some of the focus of political activists away from the traditional hubs of Washington and Manhattan."I am a firm believer in thinking globally and acting locally, and I don't think Washington is necessarily local," said Bill Hagel, founder of the Queens Network for Peace and Justice, an umbrella group that unites some 20 borough anti-war organizers. "Washington and Manhattan are not the meccas of political activity. We can do this right here at home."Hagel's group organizes weekly vigils in Flushing, Forest Hills and elsewhere, said Hagel, who is the past president of the Queens Ethical Culture Society."It's important to remind people that he doesn't have a mandate," Kew Gardens resident Shaun Richman said of Bush's narrow but uncontested electoral victory. Richman and others criticized the administra­tion's plans to allow younger workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private accounts. Opponents of the plan say that it amounts to a de facto privatization of Social Security and could cost more to implement than the supposed funding pinch the agency is expected to feel in the upcoming years.The protesters, who waved signs and banners despite the intense cold that reigned last Thursday, also called for an immediate return of the 140,000 U.S. troops currently deployed in Iraq.Margaret Collins, a Manhattan resident who came out to Queens to lend her support to the protesters, said she wanted to remind people that even after election season, some people continue to oppose the war in Iraq. "I would be happy just to draw attention from the people of Queens that there is a protest against the war," Collins said. Besides, she said, Borough Hall was easier to get to than Washington."It's a protest against the inauguration closer to home," Collins said.Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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