As U.S. bombs fall, about 150 protest at city intersection PERSIAN GULF SHOWDOWN/Impact at home

January 17, 1991|By Carl Schoettler and Melody Simmons | Carl Schoettler and Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff FTC Patrick Ercolano contributed to this story.

As traffic sped by and horns honked, the two-fingered peace sign made a comeback on a Baltimore street corner, even while bombing raids shook Iraq last night.

About 150 somber protesters sang and chanted, deploring the decision by President Bush to use American soldiers and military might on targets in the Persian Gulf.

"They might as well drop our American Constitution down the drain because the eagle's done a swan dive tonight," said James Carter, 29. "We're not supposed to be the aggressor, but it's anything goes now."

Carter milled through the crowd that held candles and picket signs and flashed the peace sign to cars, buses and trucks as they whizzed past the intersection of Howard and Preston streets.

"Shame!" "Shame!" "Shame!" chanted the group.

"How Many Body Bags?" asked a large sign.

"This is a pretty awful night," said Elizabeth McAlister, an anti-nuclear activist who has been arrested numerous times for beating on U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers with a hammer, spilling blood into public fountains and, most recently, spray painting an anti-war slogan near the White House.

"This sends the message of anger and sadness to this administration," she said. "I feel a lot of tremendous shame -- that's a tiny little country and this is supposed to be some kind of dignity. God forgive us."

At St. John's United Methodist Church at 27th and St. Paul streets, about a dozen people came together from church committees on liturgy and building use and from the tai chi class in the sanctuary to watch President Bush come on television to announce the beginning of the war with Iraq.

They didn't much like what they heard either.

"I think people are rallying around in a time of crisis," said Peter Grimes, treasurer of the church. "I think that's regrettable. I think it's time to put to rest the notion that dissent and disagreement with his policies means we don't support the troops abroad. We do.

"But it is a time to debate policy," he said. "We strongly condemn Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. But there are a million other things besides war we can do in 'a new world order' to resolve our conflicts peaceably."

The phrase, "a new world order," has become a watchword in White House rhetoric.

"In some ways what we have here is a symbol of what's to come, of how conflicts in the Mideast are going to be resolved through weaponry and armed conflict," Grimes said.

The St. John's group watched the president on a 19-inch television set shoved into a corner of a sitting room just off the sanctuary balcony. The room was full of books and records. Chuck Johnson, a community activist, stood next to a round table.

"We continually accuse Saddam Hussein of naked aggression," he said. "Bush's aggression is fully clothed but the effect on its victims is the same."

Joan Parr, who's on the liturgy planning committee, said, "The new world order I'd like to see is where nations use conflict resolution tactics instead of war."

The chairman of the church board, Harris Gruman, a dark-haired man in a rag sweater, offered the suggestion that "George Bush is part of the world order that set up Noriega and Hussein.

"With Noriega, in particular," he said, "you have a very close connection between U.S. foreign policy and its fruit."

The Rev. David Casey, the pastor of St. John's, said, "I worry about the soul of a nation that deceives itself the way we have done.

"We put ourselves on the moral high ground," he said. "And this is about the economy and money. And when we put money over people's lives I worry about the soul of the nation. I worry about the integrity of the nation."

Opinion from other religious leaders and concerned lay men and women showed considerable diversity.

Rabbi Joel Zaiman of Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Pikesville, president of the Synagogue Council of America, spoke of Bush's new world order, too.

"Assuming larger nations won't be aggressive -- and I admit that's an heroic assumption," he said, "this would be a world order in which aggression won't be rewarded, where the United Nations would play a clear role, where the world community would have a moral force as well as a military force."

Mohammed Awad, a Towson physician and a founding member of the Islamic Society of Baltimore, reflected on Arab reaction to the bombings.

"I think," Awad said, "if [today] passes without upheaval in the various Arab nations that are part of the international coalition facing Iraq, then the U.S. mission will be a success."

Gary Gillespie, of the American Friends Service Committee, thought of the ironies.

"This whole thing's sad," Gillespie said. "I'm watching it on television and thinking how Saddam's military might was built by the U.S. and other Western nations. And here we are fighting his country in a war. We have to do something about ending the proliferation of weapons in the world, or else we'll have to keep putting out all these little fires we've started."

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