WASHINGTON – An emerging peace movement, including many protestors who had planned to be in Washington for this week’s now-cancelled World Bank meetings, is gearing up to protest potential military retaliation for this month’s terrorist attacks.
The protesters, who include several Maryland groups, face a tide of public sentiment in support of war. A Gallup poll taken in the days after terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center said 88 percent support military retaliation while 10 percent oppose such action.
But the activists are not daunted by being in the minority.
“People feel horrified by the attacks,” said Sharon Ceci, an organizer with the All People’s Congress in Baltimore. “But we don’t want the Pentagon and President Bush to begin a new war that will mean the loss of more innocent lives.”
Some have religious reasons for opposing war, while others voiced concerns about American foreign policy. They are united by their belief that the United States should not go to war, and by their determination to assert that opinion through vigils and demonstrations in Baltimore and Washington.
Ceci said a number of activists who had planned to protest the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings, that were originally scheduled for Sept. 29 and 30 in Washington, have decided to press on.
Baltimore activists said they would protest at the 5th Regiment Armory if they hear of an act of war by the United States, while students from Goucher College, Towson University and Johns Hopkins University were scheduled to hold an anti-war and anti-racism rally Saturday.
The American Friends Service Committee has been holding vigils every Tuesday and Friday in Baltimore since the attacks. The Quaker organization counsels young men worried about the draft, and explains on its web site how to register with the Selective Service as a conscientious objector.
Quakers are committed to the notion that there is God in everyone, which precludes a violent response to the attacks.
“If all persons have a bit of God in them, then when we commit violent acts we are injuring the God which is in all of us. It’s inefficient and immoral,” said Patricia Murphy, a Quaker activist.
She said she is frightened that some Americans want to wage war to retaliate, and disagrees with the notion that we must go to war to prevent future acts of terrorism.
“It’s easy for people to falsely believe they will feel better if someone pays for this, but they won’t,” she said.
“Committing an act of violence can never be a moral decision,” she said. “To inflict violence to prevent violence is absurd. You are still creating violence because you’re introducing violence into the system.
Others worry about the impact on the poor if the country’s resources are shifted to fight a war.
“In Washington, they’re already talking about taking money out of Social Security,” Ceci said. “We don’t want to see cuts in needed areas like social services and education in order to fund war.”