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Diverse Groups Protest Possible Iraq War

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    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2002
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      By Allen G. Breed, with Jessica Brice in Sacramento, Calif.; Mike Robinson
      in Chicago; Carol Ann Riha in Des Moines, Iowa; Danny Freedman in
      Washington; Michael Virtanen in Albany, N.Y.; Karen Matthews in New York;
      and Elizabeth Zuckerman in Providence, R.I.
      Associated Press
      December 11, 2002


      Protesters across the country -- from college students and senior citizens
      to clergy and veterans -- carried signs, sang songs and offered themselves
      up for arrest to show their opposition to President Bush's talk of war with

      "There's a great diversity in the voices in the anti-war movement, but it
      boils down to one very simple message: No war in Iraq," said Danny Rose, 32,
      an administrator at a Washington, D.C., charter school.

      The group United for Peace counted more than 120 vigils, acts of civil
      disobedience and marches Tuesday in 37 states from Alaska to Florida that
      resulted in numerous arrests. Some 150 people were arrested.

      "Religious leaders understand that humanity is one, and that what war does
      is disfigure and destroy the human face, which is our face," said the Rev.
      Peter Laarman, one of 99 people arrested for disorderly conduct outside the
      United States' mission to the United Nations in New York.

      World War II veteran Ray Kaepplinger was among 40 people picketing outside a
      Chicago federal office building as 20 others were being arrested in the
      lobby for criminal trespass. Kaepplinger, 84, said he had "been through the
      plume of hell in New Guinea" and didn't want to see another war erupt.

      Seven were arrested among more than 150 demonstrators who gathered at the
      University of Texas in Austin and marched to a nearby Army recruiting office
      inside a mall.

      In Sacramento, Calif., nine were taken into custody for blocking the
      entrance to a federal courthouse. "It's my first time ever," said Maria
      Cornejo, 41, a mother of four from Dixon, Calif. "That's how important this

      In Oakland, Calif., 200 people picketed a federal building carrying signs
      saying "No Blood for Oil" and "War is Terrorism." And police in Hartford,
      Conn., arrested 14 people on charges of trespassing and interfering with

      Students at the University of Michigan set up a makeshift graveyard on a
      major walkway through the Ann Arbor campus, using cardboard headstones that
      read "Iraqi child" and "Iraqi man." About 100 students and faculty at Brown
      University in Providence, R.I., marched with signs and staged a "die-in" in
      front of the city's federal building.

      Hollywood let itself be heard, as more than 100 entertainers signed a letter
      to President Bush stating that a war with Iraq will "increase the likelihood
      of terrorist attacks, damage the economy and undermine our moral standing in
      the world."

      In the Mennonite community of Goshen, Ind., Sharon Baker, 64, and others
      gathered soap, bandages, towels and other items for relief packages to send
      to Iraq. "I'm opposed to any war, any time, anywhere, any place because war
      doesn't solve anything," she said.

      The demonstration was described as "disturbing," by Glenn Null, of Goshen,
      who came to offer an opposing voice. He said he doesn't think the protesters
      take into account Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's actions against his own

      The White House said the president welcomed the protests - which were timed
      to coincide with International Human Rights Day - as part of a "time-honored
      tradition" of democracy.

      The day of protest also coincided with former President Jimmy Carter's
      receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway.

      "War may sometimes be a necessary evil," he said in his acceptance speech.
      "But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good."

      While a recent USA/CNN/Gallup Poll found a majority of Americans support
      sending ground troops to remove the Iraqi president, the percentage opposed
      has nearly doubled to 37 percent since a year ago.

      In Sioux Falls, S.D., about 50 people gathered outside the federal
      courthouse for an anti-war demonstration organized by the South Dakota Peace
      and Justice Center.

      One person held a sign that said, "All I want for Christmas is Peace."


      Submitted to Portside by Chris Vaeth
      Thanks to Tom Atlee and Rick Ingrasci.
      December 10, 2002


      Today the faith-based revolt against the impending war in Iraq poured out of
      hallowed halls and into the streets. Joining people in 120 other cities and
      towns under the banner of United for Peace, New York's religious leaders
      celebrated International Human Rights Day by bearing witness to the poverty
      and suffering of those both in Iraq and at home. Before the day's end, the
      mass arrest of interfaith leadership marked the arrival of still another
      dimension of the burgeoning anti-war movement.

      The stage seemed to be set by a full-page ad in The New York Times on
      December 4, placed by the National Council of Churches. President Bush was
      pictured with his head bowed in prayer. The caption, reminding the
      president of his lip service to his own faith motivations, pleaded to him:
      "Jesus changed your heart. Now let him change your mind."

      While religious communities have long been at the forefront of anti-war
      activism, they showed their collective force today. Following an interfaith
      vigil in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, more than 100 ministers, imams, rabbis,
      nuns, lay leaders, seminarians, and faith-based community organizers blocked
      the sidewalk and were arrested in front of the U.S. Mission to the United

      The accused, after being divided by gender, were packed into two holding
      cells at the NYPD's 17th Precinct. Among the 60 men in our cage were Rev.
      Herbert Daughtry (pastor of Brooklyn's House of the Lord Church), Rev. Luis
      Barrios (liberation priest at St. Mary's and San Romero), Ben Cohen
      (co-founder of Ben & Jerry's ice cream), Imam Faiz Khan (of the Asma
      Society), Rev. Peter Laarman (minister of Judson Memorial Church), and
      Daniel Ellsberg (publisher of the Pentagon Papers). While it has so far been
      impossible to receive reports from the women's side, it appeared that at
      least as many women were arrested.

      Among the women inside was the director of the Kensington Welfare Rights
      Union, Cheri Honkala. She arrived to town yesterday from a month-long,
      nationwide bus caravan for economic human rights, to host a "Truth
      Commission" on poverty in front of the United Nations. The coordination of
      anti-war and anti-poverty protests was fitting. After all, we were reminded,
      Saddam Hussein isn't the one closing welfare centers and cutting off
      unemployment benefits. The violence that our government commits abroad is
      funded by the violence of poverty at home.

      Most in the men's cell wore clerical garb; many were carrying sacred texts;
      one smuggled in the "Prison Journals of a Priest Revolutionary" by Philip
      Berrigan. Father Berrigan, a Jesuit priest who spent 11 years of his life in
      prison for anti-war civil disobedience, succumbed to cancer last week. His
      spirit seemed to hover over the space as the jailed read his words aloud.

      The holding cell became a forum for prayer, storytelling, announcements, an
      impromptu teach-in, planning for next steps, and loud singing and clapping.
      An Episcopal archbishop stopped by the precinct to see if the conditions
      inside were adequate. One of the jailed ministers responded: "We're doing
      fine. The problems are out there." Eager to return to daylight, they were
      nevertheless experiencing a rare fellowship forged of shared commitment.

      The day was, in a sense, a reunion. Many of the seasoned jailed clergy
      already knew each other, from their work with Latin American liberation
      movements, the Civil Rights Movement, the struggle in Vieques, the
      Plowshares movement for disarmament, and more. It was as if they were
      renewing their vows; they were recommitting to an old, sacred struggle with
      some new details, and welcoming the younger among them.

      One of the "secular saints" inside, Daniel Ellsberg, proudly introduced his
      25 year old son, Michael, on this occasion of his first arrest. He told a
      story of 25 years ago, when baby Michael was only 3 months old. Back then,
      his father first presented him to some of the same people in this very cell,
      saying: "I want you to introduce you to your future co-conspirators." After
      all that time, they were meeting again.

      Of course, the day's action was not the first step in a movement that is
      rapidly gaining momentum, but it was among the first broad and active
      religious responses. The protesters followed the lead of 2000 New York City
      students, from middle-school to high school and college age, who walked out
      of school last week to march against the war. And it anticipates this
      Saturday's Uptown March for Peace and Justice, to be led by youth of color
      from Washington Heights, Harlem, and the Bronx.

      Prior to today's civil disobedience, Rev. James Lawson, who was responsible
      for much of the training in nonviolent resistance during the Civil Rights
      Movement, addressed the participants. He admonished that the severity of
      the impending war in Iraq will demand much more than symbolic protest. It
      will require Americans, especially people of faith, to render the war plans
      of this administration literally unmanageable ... blocking traffic in the
      streets, standing in front of government agency doorways, sitting on the
      floors of congressional offices, and choosing the rite of passage into the
      nation's jails.

      He was giving voice to a call that more and more people of conscience, both
      within and outside religious institutions, hear in their hearts. It is a
      call from a creative force in the universe, of many names or no name at all,
      to block this war machine with both their spirits and their bodies. Today
      is a hopeful indication that faith leaders, en masse, are answering.


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