WASHINGTON — Some 1,000 peace activists from 40 states lobbied over 300 senators and representatives on Sept. 26, the Monday after the huge antiwar march here.

It was an unprecedented peace lobby, seeking to flex its political muscle in national politics. One-third of the Senate and the entire House will be up for election in 2006.

Delegations talked directly with a few elected officials, including Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Frank Wolf (D-Va.). But most officials were not in their offices, so activists carried their message to staff specializing in international and military issues.

Developing legislation to “bring the troops home” has been a challenge. But lobbyists focused on three “peace” bills that are in the House of Representatives:

• Implementing an Iraq exit strategy.

• Guaranteeing no permanent military bases.

• Repealing a clause in the No Child Left Behind law that hands over names of high school students directly to military recruiters.

Delegations also urged representatives to join the “Out of Iraq” caucus.

United for Peace and Justice lobby day coordinator Susan Udry said the day was a tremendous opening to push the peace agenda. “Republican or Democrat, most of the Congress recognize there are problems but don’t know how and what to do. Very few are ready to set a timeline.”

Follow-up communication is key to future efforts, she said. “Our goal is to organize legislative action in each congressional district. We are in contact with those who participated and most are ready to keep on going.”

As national coordinator of Latinos For Peace, I participated in the lobby day and met with a number of Latino officials, some who said they support the peace bills. The staff of the 21-member Congressional Hispanic Caucus and its chair, Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), however, indicated that most members would not call for “immediate withdrawal” because of concerns about “a resulting bloodbath.”

Lobbying has an impact. One experience I had brought this to light. I went to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office to provide information on Latinos for Peace. I received a cool reception. Later, I returned as part of a labor and community delegation, many from Pelosi’s district. The chief of staff was polite and encouraging. More actions like this will bring results, I concluded.

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