WASHINGTON - A new peace movement opposed to military retaliation for the catastrophic attacks of Sept. 11 is stirring, trying to find its voice and seeking support for nonviolence.
In Washington, a variety of peace groups plan rallies and marches this weekend. Organizers for a march on the Justice Department and the Capitol today hope to lure protesters who had planned to be here for World Bank-IMF meetings that were canceled.
"We're just coming out of the grief and shock like everyone, but we need to speak out that our country should pursue justice, not vengeance," said Carol Moseley of Gainesville, Fla., head of the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice in Gainesville.
Another group, the Washington Peace Center, is planning a march of local residents tomorrow, much like the vigils and demonstrations last week on more than 100 college campuses, organizers said.
"Right now there's a need to tend to the grass roots, shore up the base, build organizations," said Scott Lynch, communications director for Peace Action, which used to be SANE, an antinuclear group.
Several organizers say they do not want to minimize the mass murder of Sept. 11, and they are mindful that many Americans see dissent as naive or unpatriotic. But they say the 80 percent to 90 percent approval for military action in some public-opinion polls masks deep misgivings about U.S. policy and the dangers of a vaguely defined war on terrorism.
"There's an attempt to silence the voices of those who question how we got into this," said the Rev. Graylan Hagler, a Congregational minister in Washington. "We're dealing with a real atmosphere of chest-beating and saber-waving - and that compels us to act."
Most activists favor bringing terrorist groups to justice, using international cooperation to pressure and capture the leaders and bring them before a world court.
"We plead for a thorough investigation of the terrorist events before any retaliation. We call for peace and justice, not revenge," said one Internet petition signed by 195,000 people by Thursday.
Another warning that "a military response will not end the terror" was signed by more than 150 entertainers and business and civil rights leaders, including Harry Belafonte, Bonnie Raitt, Rosa Parks, Martin Sheen, and the founders of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream.
Many activists are also highlighting civil-liberties issues and the rights of Arab Americans and other Muslims and are pushing for more education about South Asia and U.S. policies.
One sociologist who has studied protest movements said that peace activists could play an important role in a national debate if they are not lumped together with those who blame U.S. actions for the terrorist attacks.
"If it's simply 'blame America,' they will be seen as irrelevant," said Todd Gitlin, a chronicler of U.S. resistance during the Vietnam War. "But if they encourage genuine questioning, and it's intellectually honest - a deep reckoning of where we're heading - that would be a major contribution."
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