As battle cry grows, some call for peace
Seattle Times staff reporter
When more than 3,000 people participated in a church service and anti-war march in Seattle on Wednesday night, some participants admitted to being jittery.
Violence against some Arab-Americans and Muslims — and those perceived to be — has created a climate of fear among anyone considered on the opposite side of the U.S. government. With a nationalistic fervor sweeping the country, that sense of trepidation extends to activists marching for peace.
"There's a fear among some that speaking out for a measured, cautious, well-targeted response means that somehow one's patriotism or love of country is being called into question," said the Very Rev. Robert Taylor, dean of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral.
As the U.S. mobilizes in the Middle East for war, those who do not believe America should respond to terrorism with more violence are also mobilizing here and across the country. An "Alternatives to Violence" peace rally is scheduled from noon to 3 p.m. today at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle.
Peace-movement organizers are trying to be more introspective in their activism than radical. They say they do not wish to belittle the enormity of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast. But neither do they wish to follow an American policy that results in civilian deaths elsewhere in the world.
Rabbi Drorah O'Donnell Setel, who was at the front of the line in Wednesday's procession on Seattle's Capitol Hill, said she hopes the anti-war activism will inspire Americans to consider the potential consequences of a retaliatory strike against Afghanistan. "Justice, not revenge" is their mantra.
"We can't create a just world unjustly," said Setel, the spiritual leader of Kadima, a progressive community of Jews that promotes peace and justice. "We have to act with care and concern for all human life."
The coordinator of a national group organizing peace rallies in Washington, D.C., and other cities next Saturday said response to its efforts have been mixed. The group has received e-mails accusing it of being unpatriotic — although fewer than expected — while others are expressing gratitude, said Richard Becker, coordinator of International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism).
"This is a time where people might think it is inappropriate to express anything other than condolences and grief over what has happened," Becker said. "But we believe our government is moving so rapidly down a dangerous course that it is potentially disastrous for us to not react at this time. Any reaction we have, however, must take into account the magnitude of the tragedy we have just seen."
Setel said a few hecklers got in their jabs at Wednesday's peace march in Seattle, which began at St. Mark's and ended at St. James Cathedral.
"They were yelling, 'God bless America!' and we responded with 'and everyone else,' " she said.
In Issaquah, far from the liberal embrace of Seattle's Capitol Hill, a small number of protesters have taken their anti-war message to the streets.
As many as eight young people stood yesterday at a busy Gilman Boulevard intersection, displaying signs saying: "No War," "Stop Bush," and "Isn't 5,000 enough?"
Their sidewalk dissent is protected by the First Amendment, though police asked them to quit using profanities on their signs. An officer stood by to prevent altercations between motorists and picketers.
While most commuters who passed by yesterday morning did not react, a dump-truck driver, however, gave a middle-finger salute. Another man, whose license plate identified him as a Naval Academy graduate, screamed, "Cowards! You're all cowards!"
Flag-waving counterprotesters arrived by late morning, attracting a stream of honks. Three of the eight people in that group were veterans who took time off work.
A colleague, Paul Frye, 31, remarked that even though the black-clad demonstrators are criticizing the war effort, they are still American citizens and ought to display the flag.
So he crossed the road and gave them one of his.
A peace protester, who said he hadn't slept for two days, trudged over to the other group and told them, "Everybody wants the same thing. Everybody doesn't want to live in fear."
He has been carrying a newspaper headline in which President Bush declared that nations which do not support the U.S. are siding with terrorists. He said he felt he was being branded an enemy for questioning Bush's policies. A woman with him said, "I guess that makes me a terrorist."
A flier to be handed out at today's Westlake Center rally quotes Bush's Thursday night speech: "Meet violence with patient justice," it says.
"We'll be challenging him to live up to that," said Fred Miller, a rally organizer who before Sept. 11 concentrated on opposing America's war on drugs.
Taylor, of St. Mark's, said there is unanimity in America that the perpetrators behind last week's terrorist hijackings should be brought to justice. The debate is over America's response to the attacks.
"What I'm hearing is people struggling over what it would mean to launch a war where the lives of tens of thousands or more civilians would be lost," he said. "I have heard some thoughtful people ask: Doesn't that put us on the same page to those who had no regard to the loss of civilian life in this country? Do we really want to be a nation that embraces 'an eye for an eye'?"
Staff reporter Mike Lindblom contributed to this report.
Stuart Eskenazi can be reached at 206-464-2293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.