Rain fails to deter protesters for peace

Hundreds demonstrate at city's War Memorial, in Towson against attack

War In Iraq

March 21, 2003|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

With the bells of Zion Lutheran Church pealing a call for peace in the background, more than a 130 people chanted a protest against a war they believe is unnecessary.

The group that gathered in the drenching rain yesterday stood on either side of Gay Street at the War Memorial in downtown Baltimore, holding signs that read "No War" and "Support Our Troops Bring Them Home Now."

"I feel quite devastated," said Johns Hopkins University graduate student Indira Revindran. "They are not paying heed to the voice of the world."

The anti-war demonstrators were among hundreds around the region who refused to allow the rain to dampen their resolve.

In the morning in Towson, students from Goucher College and Towson University marched from their campuses and met in the center of town. Later, a band of Johns Hopkins University students, dripping wet but full of enthusiastic song, walked briskly from their campus to the War Memorial Plaza.

Some people turned to prayer yesterday, choosing to reflect on the war at churches in the area.

Others turned to debate. In Howard County, Columbia Council members disagreed about whether to take a stance on the military action.

And one woman decided just to stand alone. Katharine LeVeque stood under a large black umbrella on the corner of Charles Street and University Parkway, holding a peace sign covered in plastic wrap.

"I have been close to tears for the past three days. I feel very sad, and hope is the only thing that keeps me going," she said. "I think we have to keep saying that we should not be doing this."

Towson and Goucher students and faculty left class and walked from the campuses to the Towson traffic circle. They pounded on plastic buckets, shook soda bottles full of coins.

Maya Rowland, 18, a freshman from Portland, Ore., wore a shirt that read "knitter for peace" and helped carry a sign: "Goucher Students Against the War."

"I'm here to try to get the word out that this war is unjust. It's ridiculous to send an entire army to take out one person," she said.

Not all of the protestors were students. Susan Goodlaxson, 47, a Towson homemaker, walked down Dulaney Valley Road carrying a sign that read "Pray for Peace."

"This war is unjust and illegal," she said. "It is our duty as citizens to stand up against violence of any kind."

The rally tied up traffic on Towson streets as police closed the circle and parts of Dulaney Valley and York roads and Fairmount Avenue for a few hours.

As the protest at the War Memorial Plaza got under way last night, Aisha Anderson-Oberman, a Baltimore schoolteacher, said, "I don't support government funds going to a war with a people who have never done anything against us."

In the background, the bells of Zion Lutheran Church near City Hall began to peal in a call to pray for peace.

"Historically that has always been the purpose of bells, to call people to prayer," said the Rev. Holger Roggelin, Zion Lutheran's pastor. "This is something that's appropriate for us to do as a church, to call people to pray for peace."

Elsewhere, people gathered at churches around Baltimore and the suburbs last night for just that purpose.

There was a peace prayer vigil service at the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation in Guilford. Lutheran, Episcopal and Presbyterian congregations from Towson gathered at Maryland Presbyterian Church there for ecumenical prayer.

At St. Ignatius Catholic Church on Calvert Street, the Rev. Edward O'Donnell led parishioners in the first day of a nine-day novena for peace. They prayed for a quick end to the war, that the men and women of the armed forces return safely home, and "that we recall Augustine's dictum that even in war we are to love our enemies and that war is always to be waged sorrowfully."

Students tried to walk out of Owen Brown Middle School in Columbia to protest war yesterday but were blocked by teachers, said Payam Sohrabi, a 13-year-old eighth-grader.

Payam said about 50 seventh- and eighth-graders tried to leave the building but were threatened with suspensions. Seeing the teachers, many students returned to classes, he said.

"We didn't really reach the doors because everywhere was blocked," he said.

Principal Linda Carter said she was unaware if teachers were preventing children from leaving, but noted that students are not allowed outside for recess after lunch on rainy days like yesterday.

Unable to leave, the children returned to the cafeteria and discussed their views Carter and guidance counselors.

"We shared with them some of the things they could do instead of interrupting classes," Carter said.

The Howard County Coalition Against War lobbied Columbia Council members to introduce a resolution against the military action. But some council members said it would be inappropriate for the nonpartisan governing body of a homeowners association to take a stance on the controversial issue.

"If you're in opposition to [the war], I think you shouldn't back away from saying so and doing so in the arena in which you hold your power," said Joshua Feldmark of Wilde Lake.

But Councilwoman Barbara Russell of Oakland Mills, who said she is sympathetic to the coalition's efforts, said the council isn't the appropriate body to offer an opinion on the war.

Staff writers Laura Cadiz, Jarrett Carter, Liz F. Kay, Alyson Klein and John Rivera contributed to this article.

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