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100 protest U.S. strikes

Sunday, October 21, 2001

By Ann Rodgers-Melnick, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A demonstration against the war in Afghanistan drew nearly 100 people who marched from Freedom Corner to the Downtown federal building yesterday afternoon.

"One, two, three four, we don't want your racist war! Five, six, seven, eight, we don't want a police state!" they chanted.

Protesters ranged from multiple-pierced college students to white-haired nuns.

It was organized by the Thomas Merton Center with support from others, such as college anti-war groups, Pittsburgh Area Pax Christi, the International Socialist Organization and the Association of Pittsburgh Priests, which is a small independent group of liberal Catholic priests and laity.

Tim Vining, executive director of the Thomas Merton Center, said that the newly formed Pittsburgh Anti-War Coalition was "appalled and saddened by the tragic events of Sept. 11" but cannot support war.

"The U.S. military response that threatens the lives of so many innocent civilians will only serve to further escalate the violence of terrorism and fuel anti-American sentiment throughout the world. We can deny the terrorists their victory by refusing to submit to a world of vengeance created in their image," Vining told the group.

The Rev. Thomas Smith, pastor of Monumental Baptist Church in the Hill District, delivered a statement from the Pennsylvania Baptist State Convention, which represents 350 churches in historically black denominations. It called on the government to "respect the role of the United Nations and work toward a peaceful resolution of this matter."

The United States should not respond out of rage "but in consideration of the root causes of the hate that precipitated the terrorist acts against our nation," it said.

Violence always stems from some legitimate grievance, Smith said before the rally.

"Desperate people use violence to solve their problems," he said.

"The administration cannot stop all evil. That is something that mortal men cannot do. It is a real propaganda ploy to even pose the threat in terms of terrorism. Terrorism is not the enemy. The enemy is desperate people."

Andrew Horbal, 19, a student at the University of Pittsburgh, marched because "we want to show the people of Pittsburgh that there is an alternative to war," he said.

Asked if he would have opposed U.S. military action after Pearl Harbor, he said that there was no comparison because the 1941 attack was carried out by a legitimate government against a military target.

Sister Mary Clare, a Mercy sister who works at the Thomas Merton Center, said that military action cannot eradicate terrorism. Asked what she thought would convince terrorists to renounce violence, she replied, "I couldn't even guess. But I think there is enough good in the world to overpower evil."

Joyce Thompson, a Muslim from Oakland, came because, "It's a peace march. Our religion is very peaceful. It needs to be seen that we are peaceful people," she said.

But her son is in the Army infantry. He would not have enlisted if he had foreseen the present conflict, she said. She would like the U.S. government to find Osama Bin Laden and bring him to justice.

When the protesters broke into a song by local activist Dan Sullivan, satirizing a more popular, pro-war satire on the Banana Boat Song, Thompson was troubled and could not sing. Instead of "Day-O" it began with two syllables of "Oil."

"He should have known he couldn't mess with our civilians/ Bombing run and we blow up your home/ He murdered thousands, but we have murdered millions/ Bombing run and we blow up your home."

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