Anti-war protests take center stage

Readings of play today among demonstrations

March 03, 2003|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

With the nation marching closer to a confrontation in Iraq every day, the voices of protest around Baltimore are growing louder and more resourceful.

Readings or productions of a classic Greek anti-war play, Lysistrata, are being held today at theaters, universities and cafes in Baltimore.

Peaceniks now own SUVs and fly anti-war car flags. "War is not the Answer" yard signs have been popping up in the most conservative of neighborhoods. And the traditional peace demonstrations are being supplemented by virtual protests.

Last but not least, there is a Bark Out for Peace being organized by, you got it, peaceful dogs, or at least their owners.

"Yes, there is a lot of strength to this movement," said Max Obuszewski, media representative for American Friends Service Committee and member of the Baltimore Peace Action Network.

The anti-war marches that drew millions of people across the world two weeks ago seem to have fanned similar sentiment in city neighborhoods.

The Lysistrata project, begun by New York City actors Kathryn Blume and Sharron Bower six weeks ago, involves the reading of Aristophanes' play, which is a bawdy comedy about Greek women who refuse to sleep with their partners until they agree to put down their swords.

Today, 928 readings are expected to take place around the world, including 12 in Baltimore.

Among places where local readings will be held are the Theatre Project on Preston Street; Funk's Democratic Coffee Shop on Eastern Avenue; the Bryn Mawr School; and the Johns Hopkins University in North Baltimore. (For more information, see www. lysistrataproject.com). Proceeds from the readings will be donated to humanitarian aid and peace groups.

Peter D. Molan, a retired Department of Defense Middle East analyst, says he is not a professional actor, but he volunteered to take part in the reading at the Homewood Friends Meeting House.

"I think the Bush administration's justifications for war are incorrect and untenable," said Molan, who supported the first gulf war as well as the war in Afghanistan.

Jean Lee Cole, an assistant professor in Loyola College's English Department, decided recently to have an informal reading and discussion of the war with professors, staff and students who want to join them, even though she is not an anti-war activist.

Uniting people

"It brings together people in the fine arts and literature with people who are engaged in the anti-war effort," she said, adding that it "underscores the role of literature and the theater in world events."

Citizens for Peace, a group that sprung up less than a year ago, plans to urge U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes to be a more outspoken opponent of war. The group has requested a meeting with Sarbanes about the war, said member Peter French.

Citizens for Peace also has been one of several groups that have sold hundreds of anti-war yard signs. Members of the organization are usually at the Waverly Farmers' Market on Saturdays, French said, selling the signs for $2 each. Some have gone to residents in Lauraville, where the signs dot the neighborhoods.

Last week, city residents, who were contacted through e-mail, participated in an anti-war call-in to their congressional leaders.

Plan of action

And if there is war, protesters plan three days of action called the Iraq Pledge of Resistance/Baltimore.

If war starts, Obuszewski said, hundreds of people are expected to gather at 5 p.m. that day at War Memorial Plaza across from City Hall.

The next morning, the group plans to hold a rally at 8 a.m. behind the federal courthouse then move at 9 a.m. to the courthouse steps for an act of civil disobedience in the form of a "die in," in which they will lie in front of the courthouse.

The third day, the group will go to the Flag House, where it will wash a bloody, oily flag with fresh water.

Peace activists say they don't believe the demonstrations will end a few days after war begins as they often do.

"I hope that the anti-war activists will rally around two points," Molan said. "That we must live up to our commitments and that activism is going to be required to hold the American government to those commitments."

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