Among the throng that included military families, active duty service members, veterans, seasoned and neophyte protesters, children, and film stars, were between 600 and 800 Unitarian Universalists from at least thirteen states, according to Adam Gerhardstein, legislative assistant for international affairs at the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy and a liaison between the Washington office and UUs participating in the event.
Rich Pokorny brought a group of 15 people from his Unitarian Universalist church Unity Temple in Oak Park, Ill. “I was surprised at how motivated people were in our congregation,” he said. “We usually turn out two or three people to something like this, and this time it’s 15. I think people are really fed up.”
The rally was organized by United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of more than 1,300 local and national groups united in their opposition to the Iraq war. The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations did not formally endorse the demonstration but is a member of Win Without War, which is a member organization of United for Peace and Justice.
The day’s events started with an overflow crowd at a 9 a.m. interfaith service held at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington. The Rev. Rob Hardies, senior minister of All Souls Church in Washington, D.C., lit a chalice as part of the service. Rabbi Michael Lerner, head of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, which organized the service, was the main speaker. “We in the religious world have a different vision,” he said, “that the best path to security comes from love and generosity to others. It is a new spirit, not just some tinkering with legislation, that our country needs.”
After the service, the crowd proceeded to the rally on the national mall. Louise Green, director of social justice ministries at All Souls, was part of a group of interfaith leaders who opened the rally. Later speakers included Rep. John Conyers, the House Judiciary Committee Chair (D-MI), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH), the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jane Fonda, and Susan Sarandon.
The rally was followed by a march around the Capitol, which proceeded without incident. Steve Boyd, a member of the River Road Unitarian Church in Bethesda, Md., and one of more than a dozen congregants representing his church, reported being impressed by the crowd’s “good humor, high spirits, and determination to work for the end of U.S. participation in the Iraq war.”
The UUA has voiced its opposition to the war through resolutions passed at its annual business meeting and in statements and letters by UUA President William G. Sinkford, the most recent of which took President Bush to task for increasing the number of troops being sent to Iraq. “Your decision to increase the U.S. military forces in Iraq by 21,500 additional troops stunningly disregards the wishes of the American people, the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the recommendations of the Iraq study group,” Sinkford wrote in a letter dated January 7, 2007.
Rob Keithan assisted in the reporting of this article.
- Win Without War. Coalition of national organizations, including the UUA, dedicated to finding peaceful alternatives to war. (winwithoutwarus.org)
- An open letter to George W. Bush from UUA President William G. Sinkford. January 11, 2007, letter includes links to peace resources. (UUA.org)
- Unitarian Universalists Join Anti-War March on Washington. January 27, 2007, report. (UUA.org)
- Iraq: Sovereignty, the United Nations, and Human Rights. 2004 UUA Action of Immediate Witness. (UUA.org)