Protests Planned for Beginning of War
By The Associated Press
Monday 17 March 2003
They call it Day X, Trigger Day, The Day Of, or The Day After. Anti-war activists are using varying shorthand for an outbreak of war with Iraq -- and they are designing a wide menu of protest strategies, from provocation to prayer.
Having had months to focus on the buildup toward conflict, America's anti-war activists say they are ready to mark the first days of war with protests in dozens of cities coast to coast.
They vow to block federal buildings, military compounds and streets in a rash of peaceful civil disobedience. They say they will walk out of college classes, picket outside city halls and state capitols, and recite prayers of mourning at interfaith services.
"It is sort of an acknowledgment that we are probably not going to be able to stop the war,'' said Joe Flood, who is helping to plan a student walkout from classes at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass. He said more than 1,000 people have pledged to participate.
Some plans for the first day or two of war are writ large, like paralyzing traffic with bicycles and cars and disrupting commerce in San Francisco's financial district. Others are small, like showing a single lit candle on a Web site of the United Church of Christ.
Some are meant to be noisy, like a march in Portsmouth, N.H., with clanging pots and pans. Others will be quiet and solemn, like a vigil in Ann Arbor, Mich., with Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers.
Many groups intend to carry out die-ins, where activists lie on the ground to symbolize war victims and to block passers-by. Some students at Swarthmore College, in Pennsylvania, intend to lower campus flags to half-staff.
However, in Columbia, S.C., activists hope to serve up satire, making fun of the government's anti-terrorism advice to homeowners. They want to plaster a federal building with duct tape and plastic sheeting.
Gordon Clark, the national coordinator of the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, said acts of civil disobedience -- with the risk of arrest -- have been set up at more than 50 cities. "When you get to the point that the war actually begins, that's a point when many ... feel they have to take the strongest action they can personally take,'' he said.
With President Bush signaling that war could be imminent, some anti-war groups were pressing supporters Monday to begin civil disobedience immediately.
Eight opponents of a war were arrested Monday in Traverse City, Mich., when they tried to block an Army Reserve convoy headed to a training area. One handcuffed himself to a truck and the other seven locked arms in front of the vehicle, police said.
In San Francisco, anti-war protesters shrouded themselves in body bags Monday in front of the British consulate, chanting "no killing civilians in our name.'' Some blocked traffic in the city's financial district. Police in riot gear cleared an intersection, and at least 40 arrests were made.
San Francisco anti-war groups have laid out similar plans on a larger scale for the outbreak of war, including an effort to shut down the Pacific Stock Exchange and some high-profile commercial buildings.
"The bare bones of the plan is to basically shut down the financial district of San Francisco. The way we see it is that we basically unplug the system that creates war,'' said Patrick Reinsborough, one of the organizers.
Tim Kingston, a spokesman for the San Francisco-based Global Exchange, says his anti-war group has kept away from organizing civil disobedience, though some members expect to take part on their own. He said some worry about stirring more resentment than sympathy with such disruptive tactics.
But he added, "What else are we supposed to do? Sit and say nothing ... and be silent? That's not very American.''
It was not clear how many supporters would follow through with illegal actions, faced with possible arrest. However, in Philadelphia, organizer Robert Smith said at least 50 activists, both young and middle-aged, were ready to block entrances of a federal building.
"The statement we're conveying is that there can be no business as usual for a government that would trample on democracy and international law in order to kill thousands of people for the sake of superpower status,'' Smith said.
Some groups are focusing on defense-related sites. Protesters plan to block traffic at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., and sit in at the gates of Truax Field in Madison, Wis., which houses state guardsmen.
In Baltimore, anti-war protesters say they will wash off an American flag splashed with red paint and oil to symbolize the blood and oil of a war with Iraq.
In a gentler mood, peace activists expect to converge on an Islamic mosque in Birmingham, Ala.
Some anti-war activists say their efforts will demonstrate support for American soldiers, because the best way to help them is to bring them home. But counter-demonstrators say they, not anti-war protesters, will be voicing genuine solidarity with the troops.
Michigan State's College Republicans intend to organize a rally to back President Bush and the troops, said chairman Jason Miller. John Georges, a member of the College Republicans at the Rochester Institute of Technology, in New York, said his group will hand out American flags.
Barbara Kerr of Schenectady, N.Y., who works at an American Legion office that helps soldiers' families, said she simply plans to get down on her knees and pray for her own son in the service.
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