Island voices raised for peace

The first ranks of more than 400 demonstrators rally for peace on Madison Avenue Saturday. - KATHRYN HAINES/Staff Photo
The first ranks of more than 400 demonstrators rally for peace on Madison Avenue Saturday.
— image credit: KATHRYN HAINES/Staff Photo

Islanders opposed to war in Iraq added their voices to the many calls for diplomacy heard nationwide Saturday afternoon.

More than 400 people gathered in the town square next to city hall, in an event sponsored by the group Bainbridge United for Peace and other organizations.

“Welcome to the axis of peace!” proclaimed speaker and Seattle activist Ginny NiCarthy, who recounted her recent travels to Iraq and the fear of conflict expressed by citizens she met there.

A proliferation of hand-lettered signs in the crowd expressed skepticism of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, and disapproval of a potential war in the Persian Gulf. Slogans included “No blood for oil,” “War is good for business – invest your sons and daughters,” and “Regime change begins at home.”

The gathering coincided with similar demonstrations around the country that afternoon, the largest of which drew several hundred thousand protesters to the national mall in Washington D.C.

At the Bainbridge demonstration, Congress itself was represented by 1st District Rep. Jay Inslee. The island resident drew sustained applause for his vote opposing unilateral military force against Iraq without congressional approval.

Inslee chided the administration for shifting its attention away from efforts to bring terrorist Osama bin Laden to justice.

“Where is our effort to cut the head off that snake?” he asked.

Inslee called for a new energy policy to shift reliance away from foreign oil, and said the United States must be “a moral force for good, not just an economic and military one.”

“Heaven help us if they find oil under North Korea,” he added, “or we’re all going to be in trouble.”

Demonstrators then made an orderly stroll down Madison Avenue and Winslow Way, and back to the square by way of Ericksen Avenue.

“The (Iraq) crisis seems like it’s been fabricated by those in office,” said islander Elizabeth Shepherd, who walked with her husband Tom.

Greg Hepp carried the banner of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, one of several faith groups represented.

“I’m opposed to the idea of going to war in Iraq,” Hepp said. “Our military forces should only be used in extreme cases, where there’s a clear and present danger, or to protect ourselves – not to protect oil companies and a consumptive lifestyle.”

Saturday’s events were followed by a peace walk from Kingston to Winslow on Sunday, and the first in a planned series of weekly vigils in front of Town and Country during Monday’s noon hour.

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