Monday, January 29, 2007


Some 150 activists for peace braved freezing rain to participate in a "Rally for Peace" held on Saturday at the State Capitol. Colorful signs were held high as listeners cheered the words of religious and political opinion leaders, parents of Iraq veterans, one Iraq veteran, and a self-described “conservative Republican.”

State Senator Connie Johnson announced and read a resolution she is introducing to the Legislature calling President Bush’s sending additional troops to Iraq now a misguided expansion of a failed policy. She asked rally participants to express support for the resolution to their elected senators and representatives. Senator Andrew Rice and Representative Al McAffrey added their voices to the call for an end to the Iraq war.

Mother of an Iraq veteran Jeri Reed described her concern over disturbing changes in her son’s personality as a result of his Iraq service. Warren Henthorn said that his son Jeffrey’s reported suicide during his second tour in Iraq is still under investigation. Henthorn wants the war to end to spare other families the shattering loss his family has suffered. Founder of Oklahoma Veterans For Peace Jon Cantrell, a Vietnam veteran, said veterans know that this war will produce large numbers of soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder for decades to come. Iraq veteran Brendan Jackson said he volunteered because he trusted the cause, but came to believe that he and the country had been sold a war that he now thinks is more about oil than national defense.

Porter Davis, a delegate to a national Republican Convention, said it is time for Americans of all political affiliations to speak with one voice against this war. Valerie Ackerman spoke for six Tulsans who drove to Oklahoma City for the rally. Ackerman is director of the Tulsa Peace House which organizes regular public vigils for peace there.

Dr. Katherine Scheirman, MD, an Oklahoma City veteran of 20 years service in the US Air Force, telephoned the rally from the national demonstrations being held simultaneously in Washington, DC. Scheirman reported that some 400,000 people were gathered there to listen to speakers calling for an end to the war.

Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers of Mayflower Congregational Church said that he had come to the rally not to be divisive but to grieve the loss of so many American and Iraqi lives in a conflict that he said violates the precepts of his faith. He invited rally participants to join him in reading aloud the names of Oklahomans killed in Iraq, in reverence for their ultimate sacrifice for what they believed was service to their country.

Meyers said that taking this public step was not without risk, because he was aware of a state statute which prohibits publishing the names of military casualties in a political context, and stated that there could be legal consequences to participating in the reading of the names.

Some 50 rally participants stepped up to join Meyers, and one by one, the names of 49 Oklahomans were read, along with their home towns and the dates of their deaths. Activist Darla Shelden shared the names of three Oklahomans who committed suicide following their service in Iraq.

Attorney Rex Friend next introduced a walk for peace to follow the rally, to be accompanied by police engaged for the event. The activists walked south on Lincoln Blvd to a peace pole installed at the Joy Mennonite Church, at NE 16th Street and Lincoln Blvd. From there, the walkers returned to the Capitol, pausing for reflection at the Veterans’ Memorial just south of NE 23rd Street.

Organizers including Nathaniel Batchelder of the Peace House in Oklahoma City expressed satisfaction that so many people had showed up in inclement weather. He said it is time for all citizens to make known their opposition to escalation of this war, and call Congress to bring US troops home.

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