Protesting for peace

At a peace rally in Milwaukee Friday, held in conjunction with the weekend-long Call to Action conference, speakers berated some surprising groups for their involvement in or inaction against the Iraqi war, including the Catholic Church and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The rally was held in front of the Midwest Airlines Center, 400 W. Wisconsin Ave.

"We gather here this evening as people called to action," said Sandy Seitz, a pastor at a church in Chicago. "But not just as any people called to any action, we are Catholics called by the Gospels."

"Is our Church doing enough? Is our church saying enough?" Seitz asked the crowd of about 300, to which it responded vehemently, "No!"

Seitz's sentiments were echoed by Dave Robinson, the executive director of the Catholic peace group Pax Christi USA.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the nation's body of church hierarchy, waited until 1971 to declare the Vietnam War unjust, Robinson said. Some historians peg the beginning of that conflict as far back as the 1950s, and Robinson used the Conference's delay to urge Catholics to protest the current war in Iraq, with or without the Conference's guidance.

"We cannot wait for the Bishops to declare it unjust," Robinson said. "No, the (Bush) administration does not have super-secret information that would make this just. No, there is no sticking it out for the Iraqi's sake. We must face this evil. We must name it. We must fight it."

A spokesman for the Conference was unable to determine if the organization did indeed declare the Vietnam War immoral in 1971.

Also speaking at the rally was Roger Quindel, the Milwaukee County Supervisor for the 18th District and a Vietnam veteran. He said the Iraq war is exacting a financial cost in Milwaukee and a horrible cost in human lives on the national level on both sides.

"We're raising transit fares because there's no money. It's for the war. We're cutting health care for the workers because of this," Quindel said. "Worse yet, it's borrowed money, so your little children and kids will be paying for this for years to come."

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has said his budget's plan to increase Milwaukee County Transit System bus fares is part of his plan to keep taxes down in the county. He has not mentioned the Iraq war.

However, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and sullying of America's reputation caused by the war are worse threats, according to Quindel.

"How can you count this?" he said, referring to the financial war debt. "How can you count this with no running water or electricity? That's a war debt. That's a war debt for sure."

"Our name is being tortured around the world. The things we fought for—freedom, democracy—just aren't getting out," he said.

The rally, held at the corner of Fourth and Wells streets, attracted about 300 people at its peak before a cold wind picked up and most of the crowd put down their signs — bearing the likes of "Wage Peace, Not War" and "Support Our Troops—Bring Them Home" — and left. Most of the rally-goers appeared to be retirees, and there were hardly any college-aged attendees.

"I'd like to think that people do care, but it is something that troubles me," said Meagan Doty. The 22-year-old student from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, stood on Fourth Street with three friends holding up signs to passing cars as the neon lights of the nearby theater district began to glow in the twilight. "It's people our age who are dealing with this war."

"I'm sure if we ran across the street to the mall or the movie theater, then we'd find them," said John DeLaPorte, a 23-year-old Wausau, Wis., native and recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point. "I think young people do care, but they don't know when or where or how to get involved."