There is something important stirring on the street corners of Los Angeles and other cities around Southern California. Sharing the antiwar passion -- if not the crowds -- of the massive demonstrations that have occurred all over the world, neighborhood efforts for peace are building.
Local people are conducting picket lines at intersections. Steve Fine, an organizer with Neighbors for Peace and Justice, began picketing in Silver Lake with only a few people in September. In October, Congress passed a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. Intended to appease critics who quite rightly pointed out that only our national Legislature has the constitutional authority to declare war, the resolution instead helped spur protests.
Neighbors for Peace and Justice has organized demonstrations at more than 10 intersections around the city. Another group, the Interfaith Coalition United for Justice and Peace, has organized pickets at three sites, according to Fine.
One of Neighbors for Peace and Justice's picket lines is in Studio City, where about 100 people have gathered on Friday evenings for weeks. Bill Downs, an accountant who attended one of the demonstrations, feels "we have to let the U.N. do its job, we have to let the U.N. decide. What we need is the support of the world; we can't go it alone." He learned of the demonstration through the Valley Interfaith Council, which comprises Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims.
One demonstrator, an Army veteran of the Korean War who did not want his name used, said that "the potential war that Bush is pushing is a disaster for the United States and the rest of the world. It is totally, totally unnecessary. We're going to waste lives all over the world and we're going to blow away all the money we need to take care of people in this country, as well as other parts of the world."
He says he was "fortunate not to be in combat" and that the U.S. ought to have given the inspectors "all that stuff that Colin Powell was talking about.... I don't think we turned over anything to the U.N. inspectors. They were looking for a needle in a haystack and we could have given them the leads." He thinks the Bush administration "is doing everything conceivable to generate a war."
A 20-year-old Iranian who took part in the picketing but declined to give his name believes that the federal requirement since Sept. 11 requiring men from mostly Muslim nations to register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service is "a waste of resources. It is not going to help; it is going to bring more attention and focus on Islam, which is not the issue right now. We should be spending money on more important issues like jobs and schools, especially schools. My classes are being closed down."
When asked whether he has encountered resistance since 9/11 because he's from Iran, he said: "Yes, there is resistance, and worse than that is fear. You see fear in people's eyes. They see everything in the ... media, and then they look at me and it's ... unconscious."
These demonstrators are from the grass roots, and the sentiments they express are the sentiments of many in our population. They cannot be dismissed as an eccentric fringe, and those planning the war should take notice of them.