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by Paul H. Rosenberg
Sunday, Sep. 30, 2001 at 5:40 PM
The peace movement in LA shifted into high gear with a march and rally in Westwood that drew approximately 2,500-3,000 people.
The peace movement in LA shifted into high gear with a march and rally in Westwood that drew approximately 2,500-3,000 people. Organizers were hampered by the closure of the Federal Building parking lot (with the entrance blocked by a police car) which appeared to delay, but not deter the bulk of the participants. National Lawyers Guild lawyers Carol Sobel and Cynthia Anderson-Barker vowed to investigate, and possibly bring suit for "chilling our right to freedom of assembly in an attempt to stiffle dissent," according to Anderson-Barker.
There were at most 1,000 people when marchers set out through the heart of Westwood, but the numbers swelled dramatically along the way. Spirits were high and, with only one exception seen by this reporter, spectators were either supportive or noncommittal. Marchers appeared to be of all races and ages, gay and straight, bald and bearded, from toddlers to elders. A small Black Bloc contingent took up the rear just behind a group from the South County Unitarian-Universalist church.
The most prominent signs, particularly at first when the numbers were smaller, were those of the International Action Committee, "Act Now To Stop War & End Racism." These seemed poorly conceived to tap into substantial, already-existing mainstream desires for justice rather than retribution, unlike the signs from PeaceAction, "No More Parentless Children," while hand-lettered signs found diverse ways of saying similar or related things: "Don't Terrorize The Innocent," "Hatriotism Hurts Us All," "Don't Turn Tragedy into War," "1984 Is Now," "Fight Fire With Water," "Blessed Are The Peacemakers," "7000 Civilians Killed, 7000 Too Many," "War Is Terrorism," "Wage Peace," "Peace Is Patriotic," "Thou Shalt Not Kill," "War Does Not Stop Violence," "Jesus Didn't Leave A Lot Of Wiggle Room 4 Retribution, Turn The Other Cheek.."
I was able to interview a few people carrying handmade signs, to see what more they had to say about the ideas on their signs. Sarah Arias, a nutritional advisor at Erhwon, carried a sign that said, "Invest in Caring Not Killing." The first example that sprang to her lips was providing aid to refugees in Afghanistan and those crossing the border into Pakistan. Beyond that she cited "ending poverty in general," and alleviating conditions that lead to hopelessness, bitterness and despair.
"Peaceful Justice Not Bombs," read a sign carried by Cal Tech graduate Kacie Shelton, who works at JPL. The sign came from the Cal Tech Peaceful Justice Coalition. Asked to explain what peaceful justice meant to her, Shelton cited the use of criminal justice methods "like tracing financial records" including investigations in short-selling stocks, to discover who was involved and bring them to trial under international law, using forums like the UN War Crimes Tribunal.
This approach requires the goodwill of other countries to succeed, Shelton emphasized, but "the more we act like a bully, the more we'll lose their help." We've begun to improve our relations with countries in the Middle East, and that could all be lost. She went out to specifically cite Iran, where, she explained, the younger generation has only known life under a repressive theocracy and views the West with certain longing. Now, however, the wrong approach could provide "a great excuse for fundamentalists to crack down," roll back what few freedoms have been gained, and turn another generation against us.
One of the most creative signs was carried by Doug Bell, a software engineer from Palms. It read, "Rational Response, Not Godzilla Stomps" and featured a 6-inch or so replica of Godzilla on top, either carrying, clawing at, or eating an American flag. When asked what a rational response might look like, Bell was quick to say that he didn't have all the information that government leaders or intelligence agencies have, but that he was primarily "out to prevent what could happen" if we didn't think things through. A more rational approach would be to "treat it as a crime" and "deal with it on an international basis." When asked if he knew that this approach was favored by people in 32 of 35 countries in a Gallup International Poll, he was surprised. This information "wasn't on CNN" as far as he could remember.
Another sign that intrigued me said, "104,000,000 Americans Do Not Think Military Efforst Will Be 'Very Effective' Against Terror," identified as coming from a Gallup Poll. Unfortunately, I lost sight of this sign during the march and never caught up with the person carrying it.
The rally after the march was fast-paced, with brief speeches a number of different speakers. Each of them stressed the need for unity in working together.
Another common theme was, as Theresa Bonpane put it, "We've never gotten organized so quickly," to work for peace in time of war.
West Hollywood City Councilmember Steve Martin began by noting, "If this administration's war on terrorism is half as ineffective as the war on drugs, we've got every reason to be very, very afraid." He went on to strike another key theme, "We are here today to explain
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