Twenty-six people were arrested yesterday after blocking an entrance to the White House to protest NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia.
The demonstration, held by the newly formed National Coalition for Peace in Yugoslavia, was the first instance of planned civil disobedience against the war since the bombing campaign began, according to coalition spokesman Adam Eidinger.
Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit and at least eight other clergy members were among those arrested. They knelt in front of the White House driveway and sang "We Shall Overcome" after their request to meet with President Clinton was denied.
The arrests followed an anti-war rally in Lafayette Square organized by the coalition, a group of 27 religious and peace organizations opposed to the war.
Standing before signs that read, "Peace in Yugoslavia Now," speakers from such groups as Pax Christi, DC Stop the War, American Friends Service Committee and Fellowship of Reconciliation denounced the NATO bombing.
"Violence is never the answer to violence," Gumbleton told the demonstrators.
Although Russian and Western envoys have presented Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic with a plan to end the Kosovo conflict, "the feeling is that as long as the bombing continues, [the protests are] going to have to continue," Eidinger said. "I just heard President Clinton say . . . the bombing will continue, so nothing is stopped. The war's not over."
The arrested protesters were released after being charged with violating the terms of their Lafayette Square demonstration permit, according to a U.S. Park Police spokesman.
Some of those attending the rally walked there from the closed Yugoslav Embassy on California Street NW, where they left a letter for Milosevic demanding an end to Serbian attacks on Kosovo Albanians.
The letter, which also was sent to Yugoslavia's mission to the United Nations, demanded "an immediate halt to further brutalities against Albanian Kosovars that you alone can order."
The coalition is holding another demonstration at noon tomorrow that will start at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and include a march to the Pentagon, Eidinger said. He said buses are bringing protesters from 28 states.
CAPTION: Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit and Dominican Sister Ardeth Platte of Baltimore give a protest letter to a White House security guard.