BALTIMORE—“I didn’t protest the war in Iraq in order to see us take a detour into Afghanistan.” So said the Rev. Heber Brown, pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church to a near-capacity crowd, March 19, sixth anniversary of the Iraq war.

The local church was festooned with placards and banners that proclaimed “Yes We Can Rebuild America!” and “Bring our Troops Home from Afghanistan, Iraq.” The Charm City Labor Chorus sang ‘Solidarity Forever’ and ‘This Land is Our Land.’

The Forum for Peace, Jobs and Justice at Govans-Boundary United Methodist Church was sponsored by Baltimore United for Peace and Justice (BUPJ) and the local chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

The mobilization began that afternoon at a busy street corner a few blocks from the church. People held up “Jobs Not War” placards greeted with honking horns and thumbs up salutes from passing motorists, then marched to the church for the rally,

The Rev. Brown’s topic was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Riverside Church speech in New York April 4, 1967 against the Vietnam War. Brown said King’s name was “scandalized” when he rejected war.

“It is the same kind of stand we are called on to make today,” he said, hailing Obama’s election as a “once in a lifetime event, our first African American president.”

Yet he added, “I believe we in the peace movement cannot soften our words when our popular president, whom I support, sends our troops to Afghanistan.” It is time to bring the troops home, he said. He received a prolonged ovation.

Cindy Farquhar, a leader of BUPJ, urged the crowd to help fill buses to attend a march on Wall Street, in New York City, April 4, sponsored by United for Peace and Justice on the theme, “Beyond War, Yes We Can Create a New Economy.” (Tickets are $40. For information call 410-433-3269)

J. Ward Morrow of the American Federation of Government Employees urged support for the AFL-CIO campaign to win enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

“Workers will have a free choice on whether to have an election. But card check will be enough if that is their choice,” he said. “Business is spending $200 million to block EFCA. The bailed out bankers are getting $100 million bonuses. Let’s at least give workers the right to a union.”

Micah Ehler, an organizer for UNITE-HERE, asked the crowd to join in the boycott of the Baltimore Sheraton, long a union hotel but now owned by Columbia-Sussex which is attempting to force workers to accept unlimited contracting out of jobs and termination of contributions to worker pensions.

Dr. Bash Pharoan, president of the Baltimore County chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a surgeon who emigrated from Damascus, Syria in 1974, presented a slide show that included images of young couples of many faiths in the Middle East at their weddings. “There’s almost no difference. We lived together in peace and harmony,” he said.

He highlighted the expulsion by Israel of 700,000 Palestinians in 1948. They have been refugees ever since.

He denounced ex-President George W. Bush for pitting Shia, Sunni and Kurd against each other in Iraq. “The only way to counteract the seeds of hate is to plant the seeds of peace,” he said.

“We should not be spending $10 billion each month on a war (in Iraq) that breeds hatred and strife. Instead we should spend that money here to help young people go to college.”

Veterans for Peace leader Jim Baldridge reported on the “Keep the Maryland Guard Home” bill in the Maryland legislature.

“There has been no legal basis for deploying the National Guard in Iraq for the last two or three years,” he said, “The National Guard is actually a home guard. They should be brought home.”

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