Relatives Protest At War Plans

Relatives of the victims of the September 11 attacks brought a packed Baptist church to its feet in downtown Los Angeles on the eve of the anniversary, with calls against a war on Iraq. The meeting was one of many addressed by relatives of those who died but who are opposed to military action in retaliation.


The occasion at the First Baptist church was advertised as A Gathering for Civil Liberties and Peaceful Tomorrows and as a way of remembering those who had been killed. Its organisers said they hoped it would be a forerunner of many others aimed at stopping a war in Iraq and addressing the issue of civil liberties.


Kelly Campbell, the sister-in-law of Craig Amundson, who was killed in the Pentagon, and Craig’s brother, Barry, are one of 40 sets of relatives involved in the organisation, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. The title is taken from Martin Luther King’s saying that “wars are poor chisels for peaceful tomorrows”. Both told the gathering they did not believe that a war was a suitable memorial for the dead.


“After Craig was killed, there were so many memorials that turned into war rallies,” said Kelly Campbell. “This September 11 we wanted there to be alternatives in a way that looked at where we go as Americans, where we go as humans.”


Ms Campbell said at previous rallies people had told them: “Go back to the 60s”. “As someone born in the 70s,” she said, “I think what we need to do is say, ‘We’re building a movement, we’re not throwbacks, we’re living in the present time.’


“With regard to Iraq, we can stop this but it’s going to take all of us and then some to stop the suffering of Iraqi families and American military families. Our grief is not a cry for war.”


Earlier this year the organisation visited Afghanistan to meet families of those killed in theconflict there.


The Rev Jim Lawson, one of the original Freedom Riders and a colleague of Dr King, said: “All patriotic Americans ought to be drawn to places like this. Justice is to peace as oxygen is to breathing.” The Rev George Regas said: “God save us from another war … Join us in a new peace movement.”


Medea Benjamin, founding director of Global Exchange, said the new United for Peace website had twice been taken out of operation by hackers. She won a standing ovation when she called for a “regime change here at home”.


Maria Elena Durazo, the president of the local branch of the catering workers’ union, said many workers at airports had been arrested in the post-September 11 sweeps. “They should arrest the real criminals – and start with Enron,” she said.


The meeting was also addressed by leading Islamic, Christian and Jewish clerics. Gospel singer Brenda Marie Eager and the First Baptist Choir sang Let it Shine and Ain’t Gonna Study War No More. The actor Alfre Woodard read passages from the scriptures of a variety of religions.


The meeting was sponsored by numerous organisations including the Nation magazine, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and KPFK radio.

Leave a comment