Los Angeles (March 21) - Twenty seven Los Angeles County residents were arrested at 10:00 this morning following an interfaith service when they blocked the street in front of the downtown Federal Building at 300 N. Los Angeles St. A diverse group, including members of the faith community as well as other people of conscience opposed to the war, participated in the service and civil disobedience action. About 400 people were in attendance.
"People have been able to bring about justice when they come together and confront illegitimate acts by government" said Dianne Flowers, a 56 year-old teacher from Long Beach who was arrested for the first time today. Colin Walsh, 32, who witnessed the events of September 11 in New York first-hand, says "I am compelled to do everything in my power to prevent my government from perpetrating the same destruction 1,000-fold on the people of Iraq." Those arrested included Father John Coleman, a priest and professor at Loyola Marymount University, Sister Judy Vaughan, a Catholic sister, and Shan Cretin, the regional director of the American Friends Service Committee.
Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP) sponsored the interfaith service at the downtown Los Angeles Federal Building to express its grief over the consequences of war on Iraq. Participants marched solemnly around the building to its front on Los Angeles St., where they were joined by speakers from diverse religious perspectives united in their opposition to the war on Iraq. Speakers represented the diversity of the interfaith movement against the war, including representatives from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and religiously uncommitted communities. Reverend Dr. David Wheeler began the interfaith service, "Wherever bombs are dropped, and human life is lost, we weep with one heart, the heart of humanity." As the service continued, Muslim activist Kamal Abu-Shamsieh acknowledged the long line of immigrants waiting nearby to register for the INS special registration deadline. He reminded the crowd that this is a critical time for those who can speak to do so boldly and on behalf of those who, because of their status as immigrants, cannot always speak out on issues of peace and justice. Following a blessing, those risking arrest moved into the crosswalk and knelt in the street until they were arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department.
"Almost all of those arrested today are doing this for the first time," said Shady Hakim, an organizer with the American Friends Service Committee, who helped coordinate the action locally. "These are ordinary people who are willing to face personal risk and inconvenience to express their opposition to a war on Iraq."
The action is part of a broader effort called the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, a nationally coordinated civil disobedience campaign against a war on Iraq (www.peacepledge.org/resist).