Two hours after the Persian Gulf war erupted last Wednesday, Baltimore's protest movement turned out with 150 members at the corner of Preston and Howard Streets in front of the Maryland National Guard Armory.
Shortly after that, the ranks started to grow, and organizers predict the local movement for peace will most likely top 1,000 participants by the end of this week.
Sharon Ceci, a member of the All-People's Congress, said she had to double an order to 20 buses to carry Baltimore protesters to a Saturday afternoon rally that attracted 75,000 to Lafayette Park in front of the White House.
More are expected to leave Memorial Stadium on buses this Saturday for a peace rally at the U.S. Capitol, said Max Obuszewski, a professional peace activist and member of the Baltimore Emergency Response Network.
Obuszewski said he observed a boost in the crowd of protesters from 300 to 500 within a 24-hour period from a Wednesday evening protest at the Homewood Friends Meeting House on North Charles Street to a Thursday rush-hour protest at the Armory. The expansion was because of the bombings, he said.
Obuszewski was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors at the Thursday demonstration and said last night, "I know I'll be in jail at the end of Saturday," referring to the upcoming protest in Washington.
"As more non-controlled information comes out of the gulf, it's got to affect people," Obuszewski said. "When I watched the pilots and what they had to say when they returned [from their bombing missions] it turned my stomach."
Many of the local protesters are students, Obuszewski said. And, as spring semesters open this week at many of the state's colleges and universities, a prairie fire is expected to take hold in the student end of the movement, he said.
Anti-war protests are scheduled this week at Johns Hopkins University, at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, and at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, at 1 p.m. on Friday, Obuszewski said. The silent, candlelight vigil outside of the Homewood Friends Meeting House is scheduled to continue tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday, from 5:30 to 6:30.
"Outreach is being done to the students," he said, of the BERN group that is affiliated with the Pledge of Resistance, the national network formed to prevent U.S. intervention in Central America. "I was pleased to read in the paper that a student at City High School burned the flag on Thursday. That is a radical gesture.
"These are signs that with the students, this is a new generation. Reagan is gone and people recognize that they have to action for their fellow citizens."
The local movement seems to pick up diversity each day, its participants say, and the press conferences called to explain their cause resemble a group therapy session where each protest group representative takes the floor to explain their reason for joining on.
"George Bush drew a line in the sand and said I'm going to kick ass," said Dick Ullrich, of the Marianist Brothers and Priests peace organization. "I was devastated. I've been at this [protesting] a long time and I'm just not going to stop."
"The new order is the old order -- it's white male supremacy," said Edythe Jones-Rogers, a director of the American Friends Service Committee, the peace and justice arm of the Quakers. "It is the same order that Hitler talked about. It's murder, the naked use of power to establish themselves as king. This is a failure. The American people are the losers in this."
Other groups represent the city's poor and homeless and are concerned that the steep price of the war abroad will wipe out any hope for increased assistance for social programs at home.
"One thing this has done -- it has taken our minds off the S&L crisis and the homeless," said Chester Wickwire, chaplain emeritus of the Johns Hopkins University.
"This is a propaganda war and the verbiage makes us feel like we're doing something good," said Carol Solomon, a representative of the Marylanders United for Peace and Justice, an umbrella group representing 100 organizations. "Are we supposed to be the champions of justice?"