COMMENTARY:

Along Baltimore City’s Peace Path

by William Hughes


Women in Black's primary mission has evolved into a spiritual call to bring together all those “who seek peace through mutual understanding and constructive dialogue... and to end the cycle of violence that is enveloping the world.”
Baltimore, MD, Sept. 11, 2005—On a glorious, sun-filled, late summer afternoon, the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, a robust demonstration for peace and justice, sponsored by Women in Black, was held along this city’s most splendid boulevard—Charles Street. Activists lined up beside its sidewalks, stretching for 12 miles from the downtown Inner Harbor area to the beltway north of the city line.

Along the way I met some wonderful people. “I’m out here today as a witness to the wastefulness, the immorality and the futility of war to settle anything,” Anna Brown, a nurse practitioner, told me. Both Dawn and Samantha Musgrave said that we need “to bring the troops home, now.” Meanwhile, Rev. Don Stroud, a Presbyterian minister, underscored the necessity for people “to speak out and to make it known that war is not the answer.” He added, “We have to take a stand for justice and the things that are right.”

Women in Black (WIB) was founded in Israel, in 1988. Its original purpose was to oppose via a “posture of silence and non-violence” Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza. Since then, it has gained a worldwide presence. Its primary mission has evolved into a call, spiritual in origin, to bring together all those “who seek peace through mutual understanding and constructive dialogue... and to end the cycle of violence that is enveloping the world.” Oddly, WIB isn’t an organization in the normal sense of that word, but “a means of mobilization and a formula for action.” The dedicated women protesters wear black as a “sign of mourning for all that is lost through war and violence.” Participating individuals, organizations and non-profits in the WIB-led picket line read like a who’s who of Baltimore’s vibrant activist community. At Saints Philip and James Roman Catholic Church, at the corner of Charles and 29th Streets, I noticed, while driving by, Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke. (While President of the Baltimore City Council, in 1993, the feisty Clarke led the successful effort to enact the “MacBride Principles” Bill. For background on that important economic investment and justice measure for Northern Ireland, see, The MacBride Principles: Genesis and History, by Father Sean McManus, one of County Fermanagh’s finest sons.)

At the epicenter of Charles Street, literally dividing Baltimore north from south and east from west, is beautiful Mt. Vernon Square. It’s a park designed in the form of a Greek cross, where the first monument in this country to George Washington was erected in 1829. The land for both the monument and the park was donated by Revolutionary War legend Col. John Eager Howard. Also found there is an equestrian monument to another of Washington’s distinguished comrades-in-arms in the eight-and-a-half year struggle against the British imperialists: the Marquis de LaFayette.

At Mt. Vernon Square Park I met up with Judy Pentz. She said, “I’m here to protest the Iraq War. We’re wasting lives and money over there. There isn’t enough money here to help our own people, especially the people of New Orleans. A lot of the National Guard personnel from Louisiana were in Iraq when Hurricane Katrina hit, and they couldn’t help their own people.”

Peter D. Molan, of the Phil Berrigan Chapter of Veterans for Peace, emphasized how the newly released Downing St. Memos corroborated the critical fact that “There were no WMD in Iraq!” He was standing on the corner of Charles and Redwood Streets. At Cold Spring Lane and Charles Street, Max Obuszewski, a longtime advocate for peace, was holding up a sign that read, “Shame! War is not the Answer.” He said, “We’re trying to stop the war and to bring the troops home. This war is an atrocity and combined with the condition of the poor souls down in the Gulf Coast, who were hit by Hurricane Katrina, we’ve got to stand up—we’ve got to do something! Regime change may be our only hope right now.”

Some of the other signs, posters and banners seen along the Peace Path had messages like “Don’t Kill, Don’t Die,” “Stop the War: End the Occupation,” “Swords into Plowshares,” and this one, my personal favorite, “Where’s Bin Laden? Are we Safer after four years of War?”

Chuck Michaels, a civil rights attorney and outspoken opponent of the draconian USA Patriot Act, said, “We’re here to show people that there are plenty of folks in this country who are opposed to the war in Iraq and who would like to see peace in this world.” Green Party activist James Madigan, standing at 25th and Charles streets, said, “We need to end the occupation of Iraq. It’s draining moneys from the local economy—moneys that could be funding jobs for working class people.” Near the beltway I chatted with Ginger McAndrew. She told me, “I’m here this afternoon to support peace and to take a stand against violence.”

As of today’s date, 1,896 brave members of the US military have died in the illegal Iraqi War. The conflict is based on a policy that we now know was nothing less than a pack of rotten lies generated by a cabal of Neocon ideologues and slick intriguers and profiteers from the Bush-Cheney Gang. The cost of the war to the taxpayers is put at $193.7 billion and rising. The number of Iraqi civilians killed, half of whom were women and children, is estimated in one of the latest studies at over 100,000.

Down near the Inner Harbor, on Charles and Pratt Streets, I talked with Sarah Lawrence, whose family’s roots in Maryland go back over 300 years to colonial days. She said, “The war in Iraq is costing us $2 billion a week. If we stop the war, we will have the money to rebuild New Orleans.”

This citizen-rooted protest action was also being replicated in many other cities and towns across the US.

Today’s citizen-rooted protest action in Baltimore, initiated by WIB, was also being replicated in many other cities and towns across the US. It is yet another example of the growing concern of the American people, which demands an immediate end to the immoral Iraqi War. If it also leads to one of Maryland’s U.S. Senators, Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski, breaking her vow of silence in opposition to the Iraqi War, I will deem it a resounding success. Although Sen. Mikulski voted against the Iraqi War, she has repeatedly voted to fund it based on the most dubious kind of reasoning. Also, when President George W. Bush, Jr. recently visited Baltimore, she criticized him over the amount of federal antiterrorism spending for the Port, but didn’t raise the matter of the Downing St. Memos with him. Those documents prove that Bush and his cronies lied the nation into the Iraq War. Mikulski’s absence, too, along with many other supposedly anti-war congressional members, from any of the numerous anti-Iraqi War rallies, dating back to 10/26/02, speaks volumes about her true feelings on this seminal issue. Mikulski is the same political hack whose priority in the US Congress, “regardless of the consequences to the American public,” has been to give away tens of billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to right-wing regimes in Israel. Meanwhile, Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point facility and GM’s Broening Highway plant are now history; predatory interest rates on credit cards have no federal limits; the Chesapeake Bay is quickly dying from “dead zones”; and the vulnerable levees at New Orleans that needed desperate repairs were cavalierly ignored. Enough is enough!


Copyright William Hughes 2005. William Hughes is the author of Saying "No” to the War Party (IUniverse, Inc.). He can be reached at liamhughes@comcast.net.


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This story was published on September 13, 2005.