"We can end this war if everyone who opposes it joins us in the streets," says Pete Shell, chair of the Anti-War Committee of the Thomas Merton Center. He's expecting about 1,000 people to do just that on Sat., March 19 -- dubbed a Global Day of Protest for the second anniversary of the Iraq War.
"We're trying to show how many people are outraged by this war, how many people are affected, and how many want it to stop," Shell says.
Public sentiment is turning more against the war, asserts Tim Vining, Merton Center executive director. He points to escalating war costs both financial and human, and the federal deficit spiraling partly as a result, plus the evaporation of the original justification for the war: Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction.
"We're not clear what the goals are," he says, "but the cost and the burden continue."
Shell regrets that Americans aren't getting the chance to feel compassion for Iraqis' day-to-day lives, nor for the American dead, thanks to restricted press coverage. "The U.S. government," he says, " ... is trying to cover up the human dimension of this tragedy."
This year's march has fresh endorsements from prominent groups such as MoveOn Pittsburgh, which had not put its name to previous marches in January and March 2003.
The day will begin with a rally and concert at 2:30 p.m. at the corner of Forbes and Murray avenues in Squirrel Hill, followed by a permitted march to Oakland and another permitted rally at the William Pitt Union. Diane Santoriello, whose son, First Lt. Neil Anthony Santoriello Jr., was killed in Iraq, will speak, as well as state Sen. Jim Ferlo and Pittsburgh poet Vanessa German, winner of the first Slam Bush National Rhyme Competition. The event also features music and a donkey procession by members of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Squirrel Hill, since March 19 is the day before Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem.
Wanda Guthrie, of the Merton Center group Roots of Promise, says the donkey will hail from the Barnyard Petting Zoo in Eighty-Four, Pa.
"We'll take him with us on the march as Christians for peace and social justice," says Guthrie. "We have a lot to counter after this last election. When did God become pro-war?"