WASHINGTON – Nobel Peace Prize winners and Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish leaders knelt in front of the White House and were arrested, March 26, protesting George W. Bush’s war on Iraq as a “crime against the peace.”

“This action is a protest of the war against Iraq, a war that leaders from Pope John Paul II to the Dalai Lama have called immoral and unjust,” said a statement released by the Catholic peace group Pax Christi as the religious leaders, numbering about 70, were arrested.

Among them were Nobel Peace Prize laureates Mairead Corrigan Maguire, honored in 1976 for her struggle for peace in Northern Ireland, and Jody Williams, who received the prize in 1997 for her work in the struggle to ban land mines. Others included Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit; United Methodist Bishop C. Joseph Sprague; Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center; Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School of the Americas Watch; Marie Dennis, director of the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns; Patricia Clark, director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation; and Eric LeCompte, Pax Christi USA, national council chair.

They were the most prominent of an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 who have engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience and been arrested in opposition to the war on Iraq. Gordon Clark, coordinator of Iraq Pledge of Resistance, told the World the arrests in at least 52 cities and towns are unprecedented, with people sitting down at military recruiting stations, district offices of U.S. senators and representatives, and the corporate headquarters of Pentagon contractors.

“If Mr. Bush thought that the American public or world community would simply lie down and accept this war once he started it, he is clearly learning otherwise,” Clark said. “Our active nonviolent resistance will continue as long as this war does and then we will begin our resistance against the equally ill-conceived and potentially disastrous military occupation of Iraq.”

The biggest civil disobedience protest virtually closed down San Francisco hours after Bush ordered the attack on Iraq. More than 1,400 people were arrested in the sit-downs targeted against the city’s financial district.

Three dozen anti-war demonstrators were arrested on the U.S. Capitol Grounds, on March 17, demanding that Congress break its silence. “I’m here today representing September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows,” Rita Lasar told this reporter. “My brother, Abe Zelamanowitz, died in the attack on the North Tower of the World Trade Center. We demand that Congress withdraw the blank check they gave the President for war.”

Lasar said her brother, a Blue Cross/Blue Shield worker, died because he would not leave behind a friend confined to a wheelchair. “He gave up his own life trying to save another person’s life,” she said. “Today, I am following his example, trying to save the lives of thousands of Iraqis and Americans.”

She then stepped across a line on the West Lawn of the Capitol. Police bound her wrists with plastic handcuffs and led her away.

About 1,000 peaceful protesters in downtown Chicago were arrested March 20 despite their best efforts to avoid it. Writing in the 5th Congressional District Neighbors for Peace website www.beyondtoday.com, Julie Peterson said, “We were not given the option to disperse. The police surrounded the crowd early and closed the circle. People chanted, ‘Let us go home!’ The police laughed. Then they arrested 1,000 of us. There were 217 women in my group alone.”

Police, some with their badges taped over, did not inform them of the charges or inform them of their rights. Peterson said she was released on $100 bond at 2 o’clock the next afternoon. The web site provides an online petition addressed to Rep. Rahm Emmanuel urging him to join Chicago-area Reps., Jan Schakowsky, Danny Davis, and Jesse Jackson Jr. in support of HJR 20 that repeals the authorization for use of military force against Iraq.

HJR 20 was introduced on Feb. 5 by Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) with 29 co-sponsors including Julia Butler Hansen (D-Ind.) and John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.).

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com

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