- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 17 (UPI) — Major peace groups in the United States issued a national call Monday for non-violent direct action beginning immediately to step up peace protests.

Massive civil disobedience actions are planned in Washington at the Capitol beginning Monday, according to a joint statement issued by several groups.

Protests will also be in New York at the United Nations and across the United States, the statement said.

"We call upon the American people to rise up in the millions with calls, letters, faxes, e-mails, visit-ins and nonviolent civil disobedience demanding that the U.S. Congress assert its Constitutional duty," said Kelly Campbell, co-director of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, who was arrested last Thursday during a demonstration at the Capitol.

"Only the U.S. Congress can declare war. The Bush administration must be stopped," she said.

Peace activists also told leaders of the United States, Britain, Spain and Portugal that a pre-emptive strike against Iraq would be in violation of both U.S. and international law.

They said that Sunday's four-nation Atlantic summit showed no regard to the world public opinion while declaring its intention to go to war against Iraq.

It also showed no respect to "the United Nations, international law, and the U.S. Constitution" that forbid pre-emptive attacks, the activists said.

"If the war begins, people of Iraq and the United States would both suffer," said Bill Fletcher, president of TransAfrica Forum for pace.

Activists refuted claims by the four governments, outlined in the Atlantic summit statement that talented people, rich culture and tremendous potential of the Iraqi people can be protected by a pre-emptive war.

"It is madness to claim to be protecting the talent, culture and potential of a people by preparing to bomb their homes, schools, libraries, museums and cultural sites," said Leslie Cagan, national co-chair of United for Peace and Justice.

"Tony Blair was willing to speak of the hardship the people of Iraq have endured, but failed to mention that this was the result of punishing economic sanctions, as well as weekly bombing assaults by the United States over the past decade."

Several major peace groups including the United for Peace and Justice, the National Youth, the Student Peace Coalition, TransAfrica Forum for pace and the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows have appealed to the people to support the campaign against war in Iraq.

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