LOS ANGELES — Peace activists here have accelerated their mobilization for national rallies and lobbying for peace on Sept. 24-26.

On Sept. 9 the peace movement rallied behind Cindy Sheehan, cofounder of Gold Star Families for Peace, who came to Los Angeles as part of the nationwide “Bring Them Home Now” tour. Sheehan led a delegation of local peace groups to the office of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to urge him to support measures to begin bringing U.S. troops home. Joining her were constituents and other groups, including Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP), Latinos for Peace, Palisadans for Peace, Topanga Peace Alliance, and the Coalition Against Militiarization of our Schools (CAMS).

After meeting with Waxman’s staff, Sheehan held a press conference releasing a letter from Waxman. In it, Waxman said, “the president misled our nation into war.” He called for the government “to develop a plan for the withdrawal of our troops.” Sheehan said that Waxman’s response, both in his letter and in a phone conversation with her, showed he was “committed to work to bring the troops home.”

Sheehan and other military family members have sent a letter to all members of Congress calling for them to meet with them to answer their questions, particularly “What are you doing to bring our sons and daughters home from this needless war?”

She was not satisfied with the response of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) staff. Feinstein, she said, has placed many conditions on her support for withdrawing troops, including guaranteed protection of oil reserves from “terrorists.” The senator, Sheehan said, is “on the same page as the president.”

Representatives of Los Angeles-area Latinos for Peace will present their petition, “Latinos Say U.S. Out of Iraq! Bring Our Troops Home Now!” to members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and others with large Latino constituencies during the Sept. 26 lobbying day in Washington, D.C. So far, over 1,900 have signed onto the petition, including Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and United Farm Workers union leader Dolores Huerta.

“Our struggles for equality and for civil, immigrant and labor rights are being sidetracked by this war,” Rosalio Munoz, coordinator of Latinos for Peace, told the World. “The full participation of Latinos in the peace movement is necessary to bring an end to the war and the return of all the troops home.”

On Sept. 11, ICUJP hosted a forum called Stop the Next War Now, which was attended by several hundred area peace activists. Medea Benjamin of Code Pink keynoted the event stressing that the Camp Casey experience in Crawford, Texas, and the tragedies of Hurricane Katrina have led to “a turning point [and] opened up new horizons” for progressives in national politics. “We now represent the majority in this country,” Benjamin said, emphasizing that progressives should work to derail “the Bush agenda in its entirety.”

Benjamin stressed that the people of the country overwhelmingly favor “using government for the public good” and that the national peace mobilizations were an important time for raising the issues of ending the war, opposing the privatization of Social Security, defense of civil rights and civil liberties, reversing tax breaks for the rich, rebuilding our infrastructure, and more.

The peace actions carried into the next day as CAMS launched its Operation Opt-Out campaign at Lincoln High School.

Operation Opt-Out seeks to educate tens of thousands of Los Angeles area high school juniors and seniors and their parents on their rights to opt out of having students names, addresses and phone numbers handed over to the Pentagon and military recruiters. Coalition members handed out informational flyers on opt-out rights to students.

CAMS spokesperson Arlene Inouye announced the group will be pressuring the Los Angeles school board to facilitate the education of parents and students on their rights to opt out.

At every event activists called for support of both national and West Coast peace demonstrations on Sept. 24. The Los Angeles Labor for Peace Committee is mobilizing a large trade unionist contingent strengthened by the endorsement of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. The demonstration begins at 12 noon at the corner of Olympic and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles.

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