March 23/24, 2003

North Bay rallies for peace

Hundreds gather for multi-faith church service for peace in Iraq

Thousands across Canada protest war in Iraq

Hundreds of thousands worldwide continue marching against war in Iraq

North Bay rallies for peace

Jennifer Hamilton-McCharles

Monday, March 24, 2003 - 10:00

Local News - Greg Brewer finds it difficult to watch television these days.

Almost every channel is televising the war on Iraq.

Brewer was among the more than 70 people who attended Saturday’s peace rally and candle light vigil at City Hall Saturday afternoon.

Since the attacks began last week, the 66-year-old said he often finds himself thinking about the Second World War.

“I’ve been trying to stay away from all the media exposure, but quite frankly it’s hard not to see what’s going on,” Brewer said.

“As soon as I picked up Saturday’s newspaper and saw the truckloads of prisoners with their hands up I immediately remembered back to those days when I saw similar pictures splashed across the papers,” he said.

The event, organized by the North Bay Peace Alliance, was one of thousands held around the world.

Although Brewer didn’t serve in the Second World War, he remembers the effect that conflict had on the economy.

“There were a lot of cutbacks during that period,” he said.

“We were given rations and food stamps to survive.”

But not everyone at the protest had been exposed to the impact of war. For 12-year-old Nel Vandermeer, it was the first time.

“It just doesn’t seem right that they’re bombing all those innocent people,” she said.

“I can’t see how war could be good for anyone. If anything, I would think violence would cause more tension.”

Dana Murphy, a member of the local peace alliance, said U.S. President George W. Bush doesn’t condone people resorting to violence to solve problems in their personal lives.

But, on an international level, he’s acting like it’s the only way.

“Bush is telling our kids that violence works,” he said.

“He’s telling them that it gets you what you want.”

During the ceremony, blue ribbons were handed out.

Brewer said “the ribbons symbolize our stance and commitment to peace for the people of Iraq.

“It’s a symbol of our renewed efforts and continued hope,” he told the crowd to applause.

“By wearing these blue ribbons we are saying that as the bombs fall we will not cease from faithful resistance to everything that would sustain this war.”

Members of the Peace Alliance said they will continue to hold their weekly peace vigils outside Nipissing’s MP Bob Wood’s office until the military attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq stop.

Every Wednesday at 6 p.m. the peace community gathers to reflect on the week’s events and pray for peace.


Hundreds gather for multi-faith church service for peace in Iraq


OTTAWA (CP) - Most Sundays, the young and old alike file in Ottawa's Notre Dame Cathedral, greeting fellow parishioners before taking their seats for mass.

But as hundreds gathered in the massive church on Sussex Drive, it was clear this wasn't like other Sundays. Led by eight different religious leaders, the multi-faith prayer service asked for faith and wisdom, but above all, called for peace in the midst of war. "Help us to be builders of peace wherever we are," Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais told the congregation of almost 1,000 people. "Help to promote dialogue, tolerance and to favour the sense of belonging to one - to one - human family."

Seated in the chancel, the eight religious leaders each rose in turn to call for peace in Iraq. Following each prayer, one of eight candles surrounding a world globe near the altar was lit, symbolizing the union of faiths in their message of peace.

Rabbi Arnold Fine prayed for both the safety of the Iraqi people and those fighting in the war.

"We live in a world today of turmoil," he said. "We seek your guidance and your hope.

"Spread over us your canopy of peace. A just one - one of life, one of hope. Not the peace of the grave, not the peace of slavery, not the peace of repression, but the peace of hope and growth."

Imam Dr. Gamal Solaiman of the Ottawa Mosque prayed for wisdom and patience.

"We pray to you, O God, not to hold us responsible for the action of some weak-minded. O God, don't take us to task if we commit mistakes or run into error."

Rt. Rev. Peter Coffin, Anglican bishop of Ottawa, asked: "May we all learn to resolve our differences in wiser ways than distrust, anger and even war."

Leaders from the United and Presbyterian churches, as well as the Hindu and Ukrainian Orthodox faiths, also led the congregation in prayer, some asking for forgiveness for "our violence against each other."

The service ended with a closing prayer that stated peace depends on "each irreplaceable one of us."

As the cathedral's bells peeled, people filed out its massive wooden doors and into the bright sunshine.

"I thought it was amazing, actually," said Reni Gauthier, 32, of Mount Pearl, Nfld. "We've been listening to the news ever since all this happened and sometimes it can get overwhelming listening to only the news about the same event.

"I just thought it was the best place to be."

She was particularly touched at the end of the service when the congregation was asked to extend a word of peace to those nearby. She said she didn't know anyone there, but it was "just wonderful."

"I really, truly believe that the best place for us to be in times like this is in prayer," she said.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of Canadians took to the streets across the country in opposition to the war, some even burning the American war in protest.

The biggest demonstration took place in Montreal, with some crowd estimates pegged at more than 200,000.

About 5,000 demonstrated in Ottawa, with one 20-year-old man, Mohamed Ahmad Faraj, arrested by the RCMP and charged with assaulting a police officer and obstructing the peace.

Demonstrators in both cities set the Stars and Stripes on fire, as did protesters at the Halifax and Toronto rallies, which also attracted thousands. Four arrests were made in Toronto.

A rally in Calgary attracted about 3,000 people, many of whom were confronted by a handful of pro-American demonstrators.

Demonstrations took place in a number of other Canadian cities, including St. John's, Nfld., Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.

© The Canadian Press, 2003

U.S. flags burned as thousands across Canada protest war in Iraq

Thousands of people marched through downtown Montreal Saturday to show their opposition to the war in Iraq. (CP/Ryan Remiorz)

(CP) - Tens of thousands of chanting, banner-waving Canadians took to the streets across the country Saturday to protest the war on Iraq and, in several cities, expressed their displeasure by burning the American flag.

The biggest demonstration took place in Montreal where crowd estimates were pegged at more than 200,000, similar in size to the one staged last weekend prior to the start of the U.S. campaign to oust dictator Saddam Hussein and amongst the largest worldwide Saturday.

Demonstrations around the globe were far smaller than in recent weeks. New York was a notable exception where antiwar protesters stretched for 30 blocks down Broadway and crowd estimates ranged from 120,000 to more than 200,000.
A protester is arrested by police in front of the United States consulate during a peace march in Montreal Saturday. (CP/Ryan Remiorz)

American protests were also staged in Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, with dozens of demonstrations involving tens of thousands of people taking place in Britain, France, Germany, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

In Calgary, meanwhile, anti-war protesters were confronted by a handful of pro-American demonstrators at a rally that attracted about 3,000 people. A number of Iraqi Canadians took exception to the American flags and pro-U.S.A. signs.

"I'm a war victim, I was in Iraq in '91," screamed Furat Al-Rekbi, 24, who spent six years in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia. "Why don't you go to Iraq and look for yourself."

The object of his anger was Steve Smith, who was wearing a jacket emblazoned with an American flag and carried a sign saying "God Bless America".

"Freedom through war - slavery through peace," chanted Smith who was jostled and grabbed by his collar as one of the protesters screamed in his face.

Ali Alyassri, was holding a sign that said "Drop Bush-Not Bombs" and he pleaded for an end to the fighting in Iraq.

"My whole family, my kids are there. Please stop the war," he cried. "The war is killing children, all people, please stop the war. We need peace in the Middle East."

Protesters in Montreal chanted, "No to war, yes to peace" and "Bush, terrorist" as several participants set the Stars and Stripes ablaze.

Old Glory met a similar fate in Halifax, Ottawa and Toronto.

The Montreal rally began in a downtown square, moved on to the city's main federal government building and passed by the U.S. Consulate where the U.S. flag was burned.

Protesters sang the John Lennon anthem Give Peace a Chance and listened to speeches from a number of activists on a makeshift sound stage.

The huge crowd cheered and clapped after a speech by Amar Sabih, who fled Iraq in 1994 after Western sanctions led to chronic shortages in his country. He told the crowd the U.S. bombardment of Iraq was "an illegal war and an immoral war."

He later told reporters his parents and several relatives are still in Baghdad.

"They're all afraid," said Sabih, 39, who came to Montreal two years ago with his wife and two children. "They won't trust both sides because they are in the middle of two bad things - a bad regime who doesn't care about Iraqis and, at the same time, the Americans."

What started out peacefully on Parliament Hill in Ottawa turned ugly once the estimated 5,000 protesters reached the U.S. embassy.

After jumping the waist-high reinforced metal barricade in front of the main entrance of the embassy, one man was arrested for public mischief and assaulting a police officer, said RCMP spokeswoman Nathalie Deschenes.

One of the protesters standing nearby said his friend jumped the fence because he was angry he hadn't been able to reach his family in Baghdad since the air strikes began.

"I have family and friends over there and they're getting killed," said the 19-year-old man, who didn't want to give his name. "You don't even know what's happening over there."

Eggs and balloons filled with red paint were thrown at the embassy and two protesters burned the American flag.

Former NDP leader Alexa McDonough, who attended the rally, said it's never too late to take a stand for peace.

"It's not too little," she said. "In fact, what you see here is the growing momentum of a movement across Canada, the growing momentum of a movement for peace around the world."

An antiwar crowd of about 2,000 people in Halifax was boisterous and swelled in numbers as it reached the waterfront office building housing the U.S. Consulate. Eleven protesters were arrested during a similar demonstration at a Halifax intersection on Thursday.

As a protest leader reminded the weekend crowd their action wasn't anti-American, a group of four men of Middle Eastern descent burned entwined British and American flags after dousing them with lighter fluid.

An older female protester had spoken to one of the flag bearers before the flag-burning, but to no avail.

"It's that kind of disrespect for the people of a country that leads to this kind of conflict," said Lynne, who didn't want her last name used. "We need to show that we care about people from all different countries."

In St. John's, Nfld., some 300 people turned out to march against the war.

"This is not really a question of whether Saddam Hussein is good or bad, or whether he should be removed," said demonstrator Bruce Gilbert, as he marched along the route. "It's about who's got the moral authority to do it. And I don't think it's the U.S."

About 3,500 people congregated in front of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto before marching to the grounds of the provincial legislature for a rally.

Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton told the crowd "the opposition to an unjust war is growing, but it is also important that we continue to send a message to the federal government . . . that it should have no part in this."

Tensions rose somewhat following the main march, as some protesters returned to the consulate and squared off against riot police. Four people were arrested.

In Winnipeg, songs and speeches echoed in a windy plaza near Portage and Main where around 500 turned out in front of the U.S. Consulate. It was a much smaller protest than one which drew more than 2,000 high school and university students to downtown Winnipeg the day before.

But it was also a more diverse crowd, with plenty of grey hair mixed with the brightly-died coiffures of some younger demonstrators.

In Edmonton, about 7,000 poured into Churchill Square before marching to the legislature where the crowd had swelled to an estimated 15,000. They came in carriages and with canes - young and old of all races carried signs and sang chants. Some held Canadian flags while others beat on drums, but all voiced their opposition to the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

"I think we should all go the legislature and tell Ralph Klein that he does not represent us," shouted Janice Williamson of Women in Black, an international organization that opposes war. She was speaking about a letter of support sent by Klein to U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci.

One little girl held up a sign that read, "Thank You Chretien, I'm proud to be Canadian."

Interestingly, the Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal demonstrations mirrored somewhat the findings of a EKOS Research Associates poll conducted this past week for the Toronto Star and Montreal's La Presse. It found that Chretien's decision was backed by a majority of respondents everywhere in the country, except Alberta. Support was strongest in Quebec, which sported the day's biggest antiwar rally.

Televised images of the bombing may have inspired Saturday's strong showing, admitted Lisa Jensen-Hengstler, a member of the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism, which organized the protest.

"It could bring out more people who want to oppose, who are sickened and disgusted by what's going on."

Several thousand peaceful protesters gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery before marching to the U.S. Consulate.

Organizer Mark Pulfur led the crowd chanting, "This is what democracy looks like." He added that Vancouver is an extremely peaceful city and pleaded with the crowd not to burn U.S. flags.

Antiwar activity was restricted to the country's streets. An ecumenical Prayer Vigil for Peace, organized by the Canadian Council of Churches, attracted some 500 people to St. Michael's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Toronto.

"We're gathered tonight to pray for peace and sing for peace, but I believe we can do more," said Anglican Bishop George Elliott.

"As we exchange this peace, may we take it out to the world," he said before the congregation sang the hymn, Peace Prayer.

© The Canadian Press, 2003

Hundreds of thousands worldwide continue marching against war in Iraq

Peace activists wave flags at Dam square in Amsterdam during a protest against the U.S.-led war in Iraq on Saturday. (AP/Bas Czerwinski)

(AP) - From Australia to Italy, protesters marched and shouted against war in Iraq on Sunday. Some hung a peace banner on Rome's Colosseum, and in Bangladesh, disabled demonstrators waved pictures of wounded Iraqi children.

One of the biggest protests was organized by the Islamic right in Pakistan, the U.S. ally. More than 100,000 people marched through Lahore, Pakistan, some carrying portraits of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Some, including small children, chanted anti-American slogans, but the protest ended peacefully.

In Sydney, Australia, between 30,000 and 50,000 protesters called for an end to the invasion of Iraq and pleaded for their country's 2,000 troops in the area to be brought home.

Demonstrators condemned Prime Minister John Howard for his staunch support of the U.S.-led offensive.

Protests were more scattered than on Saturday, when dozens of coordinated demonstrations around Europe and America each drew tens of thousands of people. In London on Saturday, an estimated 200,000 marched, 150,000 to half a million demonstrated in Barcelona, Spain, and 125,000 protested in New York.

Tens of thousands of chanting, banner-waving Canadians took to the streets across the country Saturday to protest the war on Iraq and, in several cities, expressed their displeasure by burning the American flag. The biggest demonstration took place in Montreal, where crowd estimates were pegged at more than 200,000. Protests also took place in St. John's, Nfld., Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Although noisy, the weekend's demonstrations were generally smaller than those that jammed cities across the world as war loomed on Feb. 15.

In mostly Muslim Bangladesh, a group of disabled people - some in wheelchairs or leaning on crutches - rallied peacefully against the war in front of the parliament building in the capital, Dhaka.

Demonstrators carried photographs of Iraqi children with bandaged limbs and shouted, "War maims!"

Thousands protested at two U.S. military bases in Italy. Activists draped a long black banner across Rome's Colosseum in a gesture of mourning for the victims of war, and a large sign with the words Against the War, Rome for Peace was raised at the start of the city's marathon.

In Japan, up to 2,000 rallied peacefully in several cities, including Hiroshima, where demonstrators gathered in front of a memorial for those killed when the United States dropped an atomic bomb at the end of the Second World War.

In Afghanistan, where U.S. troops continued their search for terrorists, about 1,000 people demonstrated in the eastern town of Mehtar Lam, an Afghan military official said.

Clashes continued for a third straight day outside the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain, where demonstrators threw stones and set tires ablaze. About 200 protesters fought with riot police and the American and British embassies remained closed.

More than 15,000 students at four Egyptian universities protested on the schools' grounds. In Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, demonstrators threw stones and empty bottles at the U.S. Embassy, and thousands of protesters marched to a United Nations office.

A Khartoum demonstration on Saturday turned deadly, with authorities investigating the shooting death of a university student protester.

In Athens, Greece, police said opponents of the war carried out arson attacks on an American bank and fast-food outlet.

A gasoline bomb was thrown at the entrance of a closed suburban McDonald's restaurant in Athens. In a separate incident, a Citibank branch near the Greek capital was damaged by a device with small cooking gas cylinders. Authorities said no one was hurt.

Anti-war Muslim extremists protested in Indonesia, saying the killing of U.S. President George W. Bush would be legal under Islamic law. Demonstrators torched a U.S. flag and an effigy of Bush.

© The Canadian Press, 2003