Declaring peace actions up ante to end war

INDIANAPOLIS — As the drive to dump the Bush agenda on Election Day enters its final month, faith-based and other activists across the country have intensified their advocacy of peace and justice, elevating these issues in the electoral debate.

Gathering in over 150 cities and towns under the banner of the “Declaration of Peace,” thousands of participants in more than 375 actions over Sept. 21-28 urged supporters to demand that the Bush administration bring the troops home from Iraq now, adopt a comprehensive plan to end the war and scrap any plans for further military interventions.

Timothy Baer, organizer for the Bloomington Peace Action Coalition in Indiana, told the World the purpose of the actions was to “escalate the campaign in opposition to the illegal and immoral war and occupation of Iraq” through a greater degree of involvement in “nonviolent war-resistance actions.”

In Bloomington the campaign opened on Sept. 18 with about 20 coalition activists visiting the offices of Rep. Mike Sodrel (R-Ind.). They delivered over 4,500 signatures on a petition supporting H.Con.Res. 35, which expresses “the sense of Congress that the President should develop and implement a plan to begin the immediate withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq.”

The activists met with Sodrel’s representative and then demonstrated outside the congressman’s office with peace signs until the office closed.

Three days later, peace activists held a candlelight vigil at the Monroe County Courthouse Square. Simultaneously, some coalition members who had traveled to Washington, D.C., participated in an antiwar march and candlelight vigil there.

Then, on Sept. 26, Baer said, “about 50 activists and members of the clergy occupied the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building, which houses the office of Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).”

“I initiated a ‘die-in’ in the center of the atrium with about 15 others participating,” Baer said. “I loudly announced, ‘The children of Iraq have been gunned down and blown up in their own streets, and in their own homes ... We, in solidarity with the children of Iraq, will lie down in the U.S. Senate and say, We will not be moved until the occupation of Iraq has been ended!’”

A total of 70 people were arrested in civil disobedience actions that day on Capitol Hill.

On the next day, Sept. 27, 30 people peacefully blocked the doorways of the Rayburn House Office Building with a die-in and 20 mock coffins. Twenty-six persons were arrested. Another 36 people were arrested on Sept. 31 in front of the White House.

Similar actions were held in cities as large as New York and as small as Lewiston, Mont., and were co-sponsored by over 500 groups, including United for Peace and Justice, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Code Pink and the American Friends Service Committee.

For more information, visit .