Rally urges Sarbanes to speak out

Protesters want senator to increase frequency of public anti-war comments

March 15, 2003|By Rebecca McClay | Rebecca McClay,SUN STAFF

Anti-war protesters who rallied yesterday in front of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes' downtown Baltimore office called on him to raise the volume of his political voice against an impending armed conflict in Iraq.

Among about 100 people who gathered in the late afternoon at the Bank of America Plaza on South Charles Street were a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty and draped in chains and a man in an Uncle Sam outfit with painted-on bruises. The hourlong protest was organized by Citizens for Peace, an organization established about a year ago.

Although Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat, has said he opposes a U.S.-led war without the approval of the United Nations, protesters called on him to be more outspoken.

"He needs to lead against the war if that's his actual position," said Citizens for Peace member Jay Gillen, who helped organize the event. "We want him to be leading rallies, speaking at rallies and rejecting the notion of war. We really want him to be speaking at the demonstrations instead of us demonstrating for him."

Sarbanes turned down a request by the group for a meeting yesterday. Sarbanes staff member Gregory L. Aftandilian said that the senator was unable to meet with Citizens for Peace because of scheduled engagements.

"We're not protesting because he would not meet with us, we're protesting because he needs to speak out frequently in public," Gillen said.

Protesters who took turns at a microphone also called for Sarbanes to speak at town meetings or rally on the streets.

Sarbanes has used his position in the Senate to question the war. In October, he was one of 23 senators who voted against the resolution giving President Bush authorization to use force in Iraq. He is co-sponsor of a resolution calling for the United States and its allies to use "all peaceful and diplomatic means for disarming Iraq" before attacking, and urging Bush to seek a United Nations resolution specifically authorizing war.

Last month, he took to the Senate floor with Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a West Virgina Democrat, to criticize the Bush administration for submitting a budget that he said fails to give Congress an adequate accounting of the costs of the war and subsequent reconstruction efforts.

"Senator Sarbanes has actually gone to the Senate floor many times," Aftandilian told the demonstrators yesterday. "He feels he can be more effective on the Senate floor."

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