Christian Groups To Stage Protest

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 16, 2007

Several thousand Christian peace activists plan to march on the White House tonight to demonstrate their opposition to the war in Iraq, organizers said yesterday.

The march, which is unrelated to tomorrow's antiwar rally at the Pentagon, will be preceded by a 7 p.m. service at the National Cathedral, 3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW. At 8:15 p.m., participants will proceed downtown on Massachusetts Avenue NW, then south on 16th Street NW to Lafayette Park, the organizers said.

The event is sponsored by the District-based Sojourners/Call to Renewal, a progressive religious group, along with the American Friends Service Committee, Lutheran Peace Fellowship, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, and more than two dozen other Protestant and Catholic groups.

Organizers have said that although most marchers will adhere to the permit regulations for the demonstration, several hundred "volunteered" to stage actions of peaceful civil disobedience and face arrest.

U.S. Park Police said they will arrest demonstrators who violate rules covering protests in front of the White House. Marchers must keep moving, for example, and cannot hang signs on the White House fence, said Lt. Scott Fear, a Park Police spokesman. Buses will be on standby in case large numbers of protesters are taken into custody, Fear said.

The event is called Christian Peace Witness for Iraq. "These are pastors and lay people, Christian people, who want to express their faith," said the Rev. Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners.

"A majority of Christians around the world were opposed to the war from the beginning," he said.

Among those scheduled to speak at the church service is Celeste Zappala, a Methodist peace activist from Philadelphia whose son, an Army National Guard sergeant, was killed in Iraq in 20o4.

"Since that time, I've been trying to do everything I can to bring an end to it," she said yesterday of the war. "My feeling has always been that people of faith have to live out that faith, and I believe that God calls us to be peacemakers and to try to do the hard work of ending violence."

Among march participants who have volunteered to be arrested is Taylor Branch, a Presbyterian elder and a Baltimore historian of the civil rights era. "This is not new for me," said Branch, who protested during the Vietnam War. "I've gone to other marches. It just seems to me we've been kind of complacent" about the war in Iraq.

Also yesterday, Capitol Police said 10 antiwar demonstrators were arrested at the House Rayburn Office Building on charges of unlawful assembly. Members of the organization Code Pink and other groups staged the protest as part of a variety of activities.

Staff writer Allison Klein contributed to this report.

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