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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 27, 2003
2:29 PM
CONTACT:  Pax Christi USA
Johnny Zokovitch, 852-219-8419
Michael Jones, 814-964-0078
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Religious Leaders Arrested in D.C. Action;
Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Aimed at Stopping the War in Iraq
 
WASHINGTON - March 27 - Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Jody Williams, two former winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, and dozens of religious leaders jumped barricades close to The White House to protest the Bush administration's war against Iraq. Maguire, the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Williams, the 1997 recipient, joined United Methodist Bishop C. Joseph Sprague, Roman Catholic bishop Thomas Gumbleton, and former Defense Department official Daniel Ellsberg in leading a group of 68 demonstrators arrested Wednesday afternoon by D.C. Park Police.

"I am here to break the law because my conscience tells me I must, and because each of us have a moral responsibility to do all we can, in a nonviolent way, to oppose the evil of this immoral act of aggression and war by the United Kingdom/United States administrations, against the will of we the people of the world," said Maguire.

At a press conference just prior to the action, Bishop Sprague explained his reasons for undertaking an action of nonviolent civil disobedience. "The United Methodist bishops have sent four letters to the president and vice president, whom many of you know are both Methodists, seeking a meeting to discuss this war," stated Sprague. He went on to say that that they only received "one terse reply" from the Bush administration and no meeting.

The leaders of the action marched to Lafayette Park at the corner of Madison and H Street, where D.C. Park Police had closed and barricaded the park. Individually and in small groups, protestors began jumping the barricades in order to gain access to the park, where they held a solemn prayer service mourning the victims of this war and challenging the Bush administration to put an end to the violence.

Protest organizers, anticipating the park closure, had earlier instructed a separate group of demonstrators to enter the park, well before the planned action. As the first group of protestors began to breach barricades at Madison and H Street, the unrecognized protestors already inside the park crossed barricades onto Pennsylvania Avenue and led a prayerful witness directly in front of The White House.

Bishop Gumbleton of Detroit, who traveled to Iraq in January, was among those arrested in Wednesday's action.

"As people of faith and conscience, we proclaim that it is a grave sin to support this war," said Gumbleton. "We cannot stand silent while the Bush administration murders innocent men, women and children."

The 68 arrested were charged and released by 9 p.m. Ten of those charged were instructed to appear in court on April 18; the remainder were ordered to appear May 29.

Nearly every religious denomination in the world has condemned the Bush administration's war against Iraq as a crime against peace," said Dave Robinson, national coordinator of Pax Christi USA. "Today, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Muslims, human rights and peace activists united our voices against a war which is immoral, unjust, unethical and unnecessary."

Today's events were sponsored by Pax Christi USA (www.paxchristiusa.org), the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Sojourners, the Shalom Center, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, the United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries, and the Washington, D.C.-area Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

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