Glen Gersmehl is now once again the national coordinator of Lutheran Peace Fellowship. -- He sent this report Saturday night from the nation's capital about the antiwar demonstrations there, which saw hundreds of arrests for civil disobedience at the White House. -- A focus this year was a protest of the war by Christians called Christian Peace Witness for Iraq. -- (The main points of the CPWI campaign are: -- 1) End the occupation; -- 2) Support the troops — bring them home; -- 3) Commit to rebuild Iraq; -- 4) Say "No" to torture; -- 5) Say "Yes" to justice.) -- In addition to the CPWI activities, a march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Pentagon marked the "40th year since the historic Vietnam War-era march on the Pentagon in 1967," UPI noted. -- "All Thursday night, bus loads of anti-war Christians rolled through the heartland, belying the notion of a Bible Belt church community consisting of a solidly pro-war religious right," Bob Dart reported. -- About 100 were arrested late Friday night at the White House after service at National Cathedral attended by about 3,000, another UPI article reported. -- An AP report called attention to a 29-year-old protester from Portland, Oregon, whose ideas about the Iraq war have completely changed, and who was attending his first antiwar demonstration: "'Quite literally on the night that shock and awe commenced, my friend and I toasted the military might of the United States,' [John] Pattison said. 'We were quite proud and thought we were doing the right thing.' He said the way the war had progressed and U.S. foreign policy since then had forced him to question his beliefs. 'A lot of the rhetoric that we hear coming from Christians has been dominated by the religious right and has been strong advocacy for the war,' Pattison said. 'That's just not the way I read my Gospel.'" -- Jim Wallis, one of the organizers of Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, called the war "an offense against God." -- The Washington Post reported that severe weather limited the turnout: "Airlines canceled many flights in the Northeast yesterday, and driving conditions were poor." -- Organizers noted an influx of young people to the peace movement: "Eugene Puryear, a student at Howard University who has coordinated the participation of college students from across the country, predicted a large showing of youths. 'We're seeing new people, new energy, new blood,' Puryear said. 'People who never have been to a demonstration before are now organizing buses.'" -- Thanks to Glen Gersmehl for sending this report and selection of articles....
[From Glen Gehrsmehl]
Though it is getting late, close to midnight in D.C. (my email will show the Seattle time 8:30 p.m.), I wanted to share a few highlights of LPF and ecumenical activity here. Despite a very, very rainy, cold day we filled both the National Cathedral, N.Y. Presbyterian Church, and a third site, and filled the procession route to the White House where we circled our President's home with light, the light of Shalom, last night.
The worship service was powerful, inspiring, moving, eloquent . . . there will be a DVD out shortly for those interested (I bringing have a few copies of the service). Allyson Fredericksen represented LPF in the procession of national church leaders, Bill Grace represented KairosAction.
When we left the Cathedral the ground was covered with a thin layer of snow and ice -- very rare for this time of year -- still I saw very few people heading for home. Later several hundred people were arrested in civil disobedience. While CPW negotiations with D.C. police became increasingly cooperative, across the board $100 fines and the late hour cut into the numbers of people who could participate.
LPF members handed out the better part of 16,000 justice and nonviolence cards and processed behind four big banners "Bring Peace, Work for Justice" . . . "Blessed are the Peacemakers" . . . "Transform Yourselves! Live in Harmony! Love Your Enemies" and "Seek Peace and Pursue It!"
Over a thousand people attended workshops and trainings earlier -- nearly 200 people came to the LPF-led workshops alone -- on Budget Priorities ably led by Allyson Fredericksen, LPF's youth trainer, and Bonhoeffer to KairosAction led by LPF national coordinator, Glen Gersmehl. Participants bought 60 copies of the Budget Priorities CD and left with stacks of LPF activity guides and resources.
Saturday morning 25 people came to our LPF gathering at Reformation Lutheran and heard from each other as well as inspiring, brief comments from Rev. Carl Braaten, Jean Martensen, Rev. Paul Wee, Tarek Abuata, Rev Phil Anderson, Allyson, and Glen. There was a lot of energy and a strong if sober sense of hope and promise in the room.
Here is a sampling of some of the media stories on Christian Peace Witness for Iraq. (I'm bringing back hard copies of several.) One *Washington Post* story mentions Lutheran Peace Fellowship by name in a short list of sponsoring groups.
First a note on the AP story: It appears on more than 200 news sites today, all across the country. That’s tremendous! (You can check them out online through Google News -- enter “Christian Peace Witness” -- some carry video and there are several good photos).
National Public Radio: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=8972594
(We put these on Youtube—both CPW segments start about 10 seconds in.)
Fox 5 (DC local): youtube.com/watch?v=Z9nquHHJVR0
CHRISTIANS PREPARE FOR WAR PROTEST
By Bob Dart
** Demonstration kicks off with prayer service in Washington. **
United Press International
March 17, 2007
WASHINGTON -- From pulpits and pews across America, a multitude of anti-war Christians congregated in the nation's capital Friday and began a long weekend of prayer and protest for peace in Iraq.
"I believe that my faith calls me to be a peacemaker and that this war in Iraq is not only unjust and illegal, it's immoral," said George Taylor, a retired preacher who attends St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in far North Austin.
"We believe that Christ stood for peace, and we want to do anything we can to make a statement," said Anne Sayre, a retired Presbyterian minister and missionary from Tucker, Ga. "I know Methodists who are very concerned and involved. I know some Baptists who are very upset about the situation in Iraq. We all really believe in Christ, the Prince of Peace."
On the eve of today's massive anti-war march on the Pentagon, about 3,500 of the faithful came to pray at the Washington National Cathedral and then carry candles to the White House, where 700 stood ready to be arrested in a nonviolent protest.
The Christian Peace Witness members came the night before tens of thousands of protesters were set to march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Pentagon to mark the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and to commemorate the 40th year since the historic Vietnam War-era march on the Pentagon in 1967.
A competing These Colors Don't Run cross-country caravan of Iraq war supporters is also scheduled to demonstrate today on the nearby National Mall.
All Thursday night, bus loads of anti-war Christians rolled through the heartland, belying the notion of a Bible Belt church community consisting of a solidly pro-war religious right.
In his Episcopal congregation in Dayton, Ohio, the Rev. John Paddock said, "We have people who support the war in Iraq, and we have people who are opposed. I think the number of those opposed has grown over the last four years."
Sue Jackson quoted Scripture -- Matthew 5:9 -- in explaining why she endured "a very long trip" from Georgia to join the prayer vigil.
"Blessed are the peacemakers," said Jackson, who came from the Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga.
Taylor, who served in the U.S. Navy in the 1960s and is active in Austin Veterans for Peace, came with the intention of being arrested outside the White House.
"In the best traditions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., church folks have always been involved in peaceful, nonviolent civil disobedience," he said.
The movement displayed denominational diversity, with sponsors including the Baptist Peace Fellowship, the Methodist Federation for Social Action, the Pentecostal Charismatic Peace Fellowship and the Catholic Peace Fellowship. One bus came from Plains Mennonite Church in Hatfield, Pa.
ANTI-WAR PROTESTERS ARRESTED
United Press International
March 17, 2007
WASHINGTON -- The late-night start of a rally against the U.S. war in Iraq resulted in dozens of protesters being arrested by police outside the White House.
The demonstrators handcuffed about 11:30 p.m. Friday were among about 100 people who appeared on the sidewalk to pray in a planned act of civil disobedience, the *Washington Post* said Saturday.
The group was part of a crowd of about 3,000 that had gathered at the Washington National Cathedral for a service marking the fourth anniversary of the war and timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the 1967 march on the Pentagon against the Vietnam War.
Protest leaders hoped tens of thousands of people would show up for a march Saturday afternoon that was to take demonstrators from the Lincoln Memorial, across the Arlington Memorial Bridge, to a Pentagon parking lot. However, inclement weather was a possible factor.
One protestor whose son was killed in Iraq, Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, said she was at the rally, which was sponsored by Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, to serve "as a witness to the true cost of war, the betrayal and madness that is the war in Iraq."
CHRISTIANS GATHER IN D.C. TO PROTEST WAR
By Sarah Karush
March 17, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Thousands of Christians prayed for peace at an anti-war service Friday night at the Washington National Cathedral, kicking off a weekend of protests around the country to mark the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq.
Afterward, participants marched with battery-operated faux candles through snow and wind toward the White House, where police began arresting protesters shortly before midnight. Protest guidelines require demonstrators to continue moving while on the White House sidewalk.
"We gave them three warnings, and they broke the guidelines," said Lt. Scott Fear. "There's an area on the White House sidewalk where you have to keep moving."
About 100 people crossed the street from Lafayette Park -- where thousands of protesters were gathered -- to demonstrate on the White House sidewalk late Friday. Police began cuffing them and putting them on buses to be taken for processing.
Fear said 222 people had been arrested by Saturday morning. The first 100 were charged with disobeying a lawful order, and the others with crossing a police line. All of them were fined $100.
The windows of the executive mansion were dark, as the president was away for the weekend at Camp David in Maryland.
John Pattison, 29, said he and his wife flew in from Portland, Ore., to attend his first anti-war rally. He said his opposition to the war had developed over time.
"Quite literally on the night that shock and awe commenced, my friend and I toasted the military might of the United States," Pattison said. "We were quite proud and thought we were doing the right thing."
He said the way the war had progressed and U.S. foreign policy since then had forced him to question his beliefs.
"A lot of the rhetoric that we hear coming from Christians has been dominated by the religious right and has been strong advocacy for the war," Pattison said. "That's just not the way I read my Gospel."
The ecumenical coalition that organized the event, Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, distributed 3,200 tickets for the service in the cathedral, with two smaller churches hosting overflow crowds. The cathedral appeared to be packed, although sleet and snow prevented some from attending.
"This war, from a Christian point of view, is morally wrong -- and was from the beginning," the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, one of the event's sponsors, said toward the end of the service to cheers and applause. "This war is . . . an offense against God."
In his speech, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, lashed out at Congress for being "too morally inept to intervene" to stop the war, but even more harshly against President Bush.
"Mr. Bush, my Christian brother, we do need a surge in troops. We need a surge in the nonviolent army of the Lord," he said. "We need a surge in conscience and a surge in activism and a surge in truth-telling."
Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia recounted how she learned of the death of her son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, who served in the National Guard. When a uniformed man came to her door asking if she was Baker's mother, she said yes.
"'Yes,' and then I fell to the ground and somewhere outside of myself I heard someone screaming and screaming," she said.
The Friday night events mark the beginning of what is planned as a weekend of protests ahead of Tuesday's anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion, which began on March 20, 2003. [NOTE: Actually, the war began on Mar. 19, 2003, by local U.S. time. --A.DeJ.]
On Saturday morning, a coalition of protest groups has a permit for up to 30,000 people to march from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial across the Potomac River to the Pentagon. Smaller demonstrations are planned in cities across the country.
ROUSING, EMOTIONAL START FOR WAR PROTEST
By Steve Vogel and Clarence Williams
** Arrests Made at White House; Storm Might Trim Weekend Turnout **
March 17, 2007
Dozens of demonstrators, many of them Christian peace activists, were arrested outside the White House late last night and early this morning as part of a protest against the war in Iraq.
About 11:30 p.m., police began handcuffing the first of about 100 protesters who had assembled on the White House sidewalk to pray in a planned act of civil disobedience.
The protesters were part of a larger group that had assembled at the Washington National Cathedral for a service on the fourth anniversary of the start of the war. From the service, demonstrators marched through the wind, cold, and dampness to the White House.
The demonstration began a weekend of protest that is to include a march on the Pentagon today. Last night's event, which was sponsored by more than two dozen religious groups, was not part of today's antiwar rally at the Pentagon.
Those who were arrested had been among almost 3,000 people who assembled at the cathedral at 7 p.m. for a rousing, emotional service that lasted more than 90 minutes.
Participants, whom the cathedral staff numbered at 2,825, heard speakers including Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004.
"I am here tonight as a witness to the true cost of war," she said, "the betrayal and madness that is the war in Iraq."
"We lay before God the sorrow that lives in all of us because of the war," she said.
Last night's procession was sponsored by Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.
Meanwhile, organizers of the march on the Pentagon expressed concern that the storm hitting the Northeast might affect turnout.
Protest leaders said they still expect tens of thousands of people for the march, which will begin at 12:30 p.m. north of the Lincoln Memorial and cross the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the Pentagon's north parking lot for a rally. Organizers are tying the protest to the 40th anniversary of the 1967 march on the Pentagon against the Vietnam War, saying it represents similar public anger.
Airlines canceled many flights in the Northeast yesterday, and driving conditions were poor. Organizers said many contingents from some of the hardest-hit areas, including New England and New York, are scheduled to travel in bus and car caravans.
"They are doing everything possible to continue to come," said Brian Becker, national coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition, the march's main sponsor.
Other contingents are coming from such places as New Orleans, Tucson, Houston, Salt Lake City, Florida, and California, organizers said.
Yesterday's cold rain did not stop a small group of people from gathering on the sodden, muddy ground of the Mall's Constitution Gardens to preview their countermarch activities.
Members of the Gathering of Eagles group said they plan to voice support for the war and for the troops in Iraq and make sure that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, near the war protest's starting place, is not desecrated. Antiwar demonstrators said that they, too, respect the memorial.
Organizers with Gathering of Eagles said they also will demonstrate against the protest along the march route. Many with Gathering of Eagles are Vietnam veterans or relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq.
"I've got some friends over there," said Rod Linkous of El Paso, gesturing toward the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He served two tours in Vietnam in the 1960s and '70s.
"We defended their right to say whatever they want," Linkous, 59, said of war protesters past and present. "They have the freedom of speech. We gave that freedom by fighting and dying for it."
The rain prompted organizers of the war protest to move a news conference scheduled for their assembly grounds at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue to George Washington University Law School.
Speakers, including the parents of a Marine killed in Iraq, denounced the war and called for the impeachment of President Bush.
Mike Marceau, a disabled Army veteran who served in Vietnam and is vice president of the D.C. chapter of Veterans for Peace, criticized the administration over recent reports of poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
"That is unconscionable, and we can't allow that to happen," said Marceau, who said he spent eight months at Walter Reed during 1970 and 1971 recuperating from wounds. "It's time to stop spending money on hurting people and start spending money on healing people."
Carlos Arredondo, who brought to the podium the boots his son Alex wore before he was killed in Iraq in 2004, said the march will honor service members and others who have died in the war. He echoed Marceau's comments about Walter Reed: "The veterans deserve much better."
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said Bush and Vice President Cheney should be removed from office for what he described as crimes against the Constitution.
Eugene Puryear, a student at Howard University who has coordinated the participation of college students from across the country, predicted a large showing of youths. We're seeing new people, new energy, new blood," Puryear said. "People who never have been to a demonstration before are now organizing buses."
--Staff writers Michael E. Ruane and Martin Weil contributed to this report.