By Sue Anne Pressley Montes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 22, 2006
A group of ministers, veterans and peace activists attempted to deliver a "declaration of peace" to the White House yesterday, kicking off a week of vigils and other activities in 350 communities across the country calling for the prompt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Thirty-four people were arrested here and charged with disorderly conduct after they demanded to speak with President Bush, then refused to leave the west gate of the White House. As part of an initiative of more than 400 groups, many of them religiously affiliated, the activists said they had to "bear moral witness" against the U.S. military role in Iraq.
"We are in a time of peril, and people of morals have got to stand up," said the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., who founded the D.C.-based Hip Hop Caucus to involve youths in political and social action and helped to lead yesterday's protest. "If we don't stand now in the 21st century, there will not be a 22nd century. We will destroy ourselves -- we will either solve this together or die as fools together."
The day's activities also featured vigils for peace in dozens of cities and towns, including Little Rock; Tucson; Pasadena, Calif.; Miami; Decatur, Ga.; Pittsburgh; and Austin. In San Diego today, there will be a Dance Action for Peace. Tomorrow in Cincinnati, a tent city dedicated to peace will be erected. San Francisco is hosting a mass bicycle ride to protest the conflict in Iraq, and Madison, Wis., is holding community forums on the issue.
The week's activities will include civil disobedience actions at the U.S. Capitol, organizers said, as participants try to persuade members of Congress to sign the declaration of peace, a document demanding that the Bush administration "establish a concrete and rapid plan to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq."
The declaration of peace was created after religious and secular peace groups, including the Methodist Federation for Social Action, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and United for Peace and Justice, began discussions in January. Since then, the document has received more than 12,000 signatures online. Thousands more signatures have been gathered in petition campaigns around the country, organizers said.
At yesterday's event outside the White House, about 75 people listened as Yearwood and others explained their purpose. Some held small, red "stop" signs to show their support for an end to the war and chanted, "No to war! We declare peace!"
"Today, here in front of the White House, we kick off a week of intensive antiwar action throughout the nation," said Leslie Cagan, national coordinator for United for Peace and Justice, which she described as the country's largest antiwar coalition. "It is time to end the war in Iraq. It is time to bring all of the troops home."