Colony Square Peace Rally Celebrates Eight Years

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standforpeace1(APN) ATLANTA — Friday, August 20, 2010 marked the eight year anniversary of the weekly hour-long peace vigil outside Colony Square at 14th and Peachtree Street. The weekly rally is sponsored by Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions’ (WAND) and is every Friday at noon.

Approximately 50 people gathered to, once again, publicly declare that War is not the Answer.

Rev., Dr. Barbara L. King, founder and minister of Hillside International Chapel and Truth Center in Atlanta, was a featured speaker. King spoke on the need for more churches to promote and preach peace to their congregations. She encouraged the peace activists to ask their ministers to gave more sermons on peace. King lead everyone in a song which she always sings at her church – “Let their be peace on Earth and let it begin with me. Let their be peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be.”

Hillside is a member of Every Church a Peace Church, which follows Jesus’s example in nonviolent struggle for justice and peace in the world. Their vision is to transform every war-justifying church into a peace church, so the world will be turned toward peace.standforpeace2

“Over 4,400 US men and women have lost their lives in Iraq and countless solders have come home wounded and disabled. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, been injured or displaced. The true toll of this ill-conceived war is really unknowable. We do know it has been devastating to a wide web of people and governments,” Krista Brewer, President of Georgia WAND, said to the crowd.

Leaflets were passed out to pedestrian traffic which gave information on how to contact Congressional representatives. It urged people to ask Congress to support US Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-CA) bill, HR 6045, to limit funding for the Occupation of Afghanistan and enact a withdrawal of US troops and military contractors from Afghanistan.

standforpeace3HR 6045 states any additional Afghanistan funds will only be for withdrawal, and it is co-sponsored by US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).

“We applaud the withdrawal of 50,000 combat troops from Iraq, but we continue to urge the US Congress and the Administration to cease the endless funding of war-related activities that has taken thousands of lives and continues to devastate Iraq and Afghanistan,” Bobbie Paul, Executive Director of Georgia WAND, said.

President Obama makes it sound like the troops remaining in Iraq will be serving largely administrative and advisory functions. But in reality, 50,000 “combat capable” troops will remain in Iraq to train the Iraqi military, including accompanying them on dangerous patrols and support special forces operations to hunt for terrorists, according to an email from Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).

IVAW is also concerned many of the returning soldiers will be sent to serve more tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and that hundreds of these troops are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other ailments and are not fit to deploy.

“We fear the war in Iraq is far from over,” Brewer says. “More than 50,000 US troops and a large number of private contractors, on the US payroll, still remain in Iraq, and this represents a large combat ready capacity.”

“Let’s urge our elected representatives to pursue diplomatic means to meet the future challenges in Iraq and insist that Congress stop giving the military and the Pentagon a blank check for endless war,” Brewer said.

So far this blank check for the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions and occupations has cost US taxpayers over 1.09 trillion dollars. The total cost of these wars for Georgia is approximately 30,842,450,886 dollars and counting, or almost 31 billion dollars as of this writing, according to www.costofwar.com.

Taxpayers in Georgia will pay 4.9 billion dollars and Atlanta will pay 205 million for proposed total Iraq and Afghanistan spending in FY2011.

For the same amount of money, a few of the following options could have been provided Georgia citizens:

1,085,997 people receiving low-income healthcare for one year or

2,380,216 households with renewable electricity-wind power for one year or

102,629 police or sheriff’s patrol officers for one year or

114,383 firefighters for one year or

653,184 scholarships for university students for one year or

659,428 Head Start slots for children for one year or

77,153 elementary school teachers for one year

In 2009, the breakdown of how the federal government spent our income tax dollar was 26.5 cents for military-related spending, and 13.6 cents for military and non-military interest on the debt, yet only 2 cents for education, according to www.nationalpriorities.org.

Some signs at the Stand for Peace vigil questioned US Congress’s spending priorities as unemployment and foreclosure rates continue to climb. One sign held by Dianne Mathiowetz with International Action Center/Atlanta read Money for Jobs and Housing not War.

“The truth of this banner slogan applies to people everywhere,” Mathiowetz said.

“It’s critically important when so many millions of people in the US are struggling just to find a job, keep their home, pay for food, utilities, healthcare, and education, that we demand Congress stop cutting social programs. The focus needs to be on eliminating the billions going to the Pentagon budget, the expense of conducting multiple wars and occupations, and the maintenance of military bases around the world,” Mathiowetz said.

Stand for Peace has been held each Friday for eight years, except for a brief hiatus of three weeks in February 2009.

“We took about three weeks off after Obama took office but resumed our stand as we realized that the war in Afghanistan was escalating,” Bobbie Paul said.

The weekly war protests began at Colony Square on August 29, 2002, after former US Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) refused to meet with a peace delegation in his then-Colony Square office. In November 2002, five citizens decided to stay until they could get an appointment with US Sen. Miller, and they were arrested, Atlanta Progressive News reported in a 2006 article on STP’s fourth anniversary.

Although other anti-war vigils have occurred throughout the Metro Atlanta area, the Stand for Peace vigil is the longest-running vigil in Atlanta. Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition, Atlanta, sponsors a monthly anti-war protest at the corner of Moreland and Caroline Street (Edgewood Retail District) from 4:30pm to 6:00pm on the 4th Wednesday each month.

“When Stand for Peace began, we got almost no honks for peace and a lot of down right hostility. Gradually over the years, the number of honks, thumbs up, and other signs of support has increased dramatically. Of course, we can’t take credit for this change in public opinion, but I think that by standing and speaking out for peace, some people gained courage to speak out themselves. Perhaps the information WAND distributed helped others reexamine their views on the Iraq War. Those of us who stand on the corner feel good about our witness for peace,” Brewer said.

The 8th anniversary is a time to honor and mourn the 6,725 coalition soldiers, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan citizens who have died since March 19, 2003, and to remember the faithful members of the Stand for Peace community that are no longer with us: Rev. Buddy Hughes, Ed Arnold, Elizabeth Siceloff, Terry Boles, and Ruth A. Schmidt, PhD.

Some of the organizations that have participated in Stand for Peace over the past 8 years are Georgia WAND, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace, Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition, International Action Center/Atlanta, Social Concerns Committee of the Atlanta Friends Meeting, and Veterans for Peace.

(END/2010)

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