Peace actions mark Human Rights Day

Drawn, they said, by a combination of fear and hope, about 200 Louisville, Ky., peace activists braved the evening’s chill and rain to take part in candlelight vigils against an Iraq war.

The fear, they said, comes from a belief that President Bush already has decided to invade Iraq. The hope stems from their stance that they are part of a growing movement that could still stop it.

The protests in Louisville were held in conjunction with those in more than 100 U.S. cities, Dec. 10, to mark International Human Rights Day.

Some anti-war activists were arrested at federal buildings in Chicago and New York, while college students held protests on campuses nationwide, similar to one attended by about 75 students Dec. 9 at the University of Louisville.

'The movement nationally has just swelled in numbers,' said Pat Geier, coordinator of the Louisville Committee to Stop The War Against Iraq. 'We still are hopeful that we can put some pressure on the Bush administration to allow the [UN] inspection process to work.

'But,' she acknowledged, 'it is a real uphill struggle.'

Joe Cambron, who served in the Army in the Persian Gulf war, also attended the vigil, noting that, 'I’m against any unilateral involvement' in Iraq.

'I feel that we need to let the UN inspections work and let the United Nations solve this problem,' Cambron said.

The vigils follow a growing list of anti-war statements issued by some religious organizations. Catholic bishops and several major Protestant denominations – with the exception of the Southern Baptist Convention – oppose war with Iraq.

The Kentucky Council of Churches, Louisville Catholic Archbishop Thomas Kelly and Clifton Kirkpatrick of the Louisville-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – have challenged the legitimacy of launching a pre-emptive attack on Iraq.

In Denton, Texas, home of the University of North Texas (UNT), about 30 peace activists were part of the Dec. 10 actions. The gathering was festive and welcomed by the surrounding community. One storefront had a banner hung from its rooftop that read, 'No War in Iraq.'

Members of UNT’s Anti-War Operations League (AWOL), Denton Peace Action and other rallygoers held signs regarding the war and human rights as a drum circle jived in the center of the crowd. Free food was provided by Denton Food-Not-Bombs. The police presence was minimal, and one officer even stated that he supported what the protesters were doing. 'I support what you all are doing. [You] have put me in a difficult position,' refering to the fact that the gathering had no permit, and the officer was wondering if he would have to make the protesters disperse. Moments later, a fender bender down the street took the officers away, and they never returned to the rally.

In downtown Buffalo, N.Y., 300 peace activists, students and people of faith attended a rally against U.S. military involvement in the Middle East. Despite very cold weather and brisk winds people stood and chanted and sang for over an hour. The Western New York Peace Center organized the rally with the support and endorsement of many other groups.

Allen Jamieson, an American Indian activist, spoke out against the war, citing our country’s history of stealing land and resources. He said this was a war for oil, which was a theme for most of the speakers. After the rally there was a candlelight vigil.

Other anti-war initiatives taking place around the country include the following:

Cities for Peace is a rapidly growing effort to get city councils and other civic bodies to pass resolutions against a war on Iraq. So far over 20 cities have passed such resolutions (see related story, page 4). To get your town or city involved go to www.citiesforpeace.org.

MoveOn.org is circulating an online petition and publishing full-page newspaper ads. Over 600,000 have signed the petition.

Numerous artists and Hollywood stars signed onto a statement to George W. Bush opposing a pre-emptive military invasion of Iraq and asking for 'the valid U.S. and UN objective of disarming Saddam Hussein' be achieved through legal diplomatic means. 'There is no need for war,' the statement said.

The weekend of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday will be filled with local actions and national marches in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.

Jack York and Martin Wallace contributed to this story.