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PEACEFUL JUSTICE In every region of the country, a movement for a "justice, not vengeance" response to the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon is growing rapidly. Among the first to act were students at Connecticut's

Wesleyan University

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John Nichols
John Nichols
John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated...

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A presidential candidate with a history of beating incumbents, rewriting electoral rules and upsetting political expectations.

. "People were still crying, but they were also asking, 'What can we do to break the cycle of violence?'" says

Sarah Norr

, a junior. Wesleyan students who had been mobilizing against sweatshops and World Bank policies joined Arab-American students to create a movement for "peaceful justice." They e-mailed campuses nationwide, created a website (www.peacefuljustice.cjb.net) and tapped into

Students Transforming and Resisting Corporations

(STARC),

Student Peace Action Network

(SPAN) and

180/Movement for Democracy and Education

networks to organize a "National Student Day of Action" around four principles: unequivocal condemnation of the terrorist attacks, a call for US officials to seek justice rather than revenge in order to avoid loss of more innocent lives and to work toward a lasting peace, resistance to scapegoating of Muslims and Arab-Americans and defense of civil liberties. "Wesleyan really got the ball rolling," says STARC co-founder

Terra Lawson-Remer

. The September 20 Day of Action saw teach-ins and rallies on 140 campuses. Now, Wesleyan students are working with STARC to take the movement off campus. "The polls say 85 percent of Americans want a war, but when we ask local businesses to put up our signs, we're finding a longing for dialogue," says Norr. "When we say, 'We're all against terrorism; now let's talk about the best way to respond to it,' people don't reject the opportunity, they embrace it."

NO MORE VICTIMS It is tough to talk peace when your phone lines have been disrupted after a terrorist attack, but the

War Resisters League

did. Despite phone and Internet troubles at its New York office, the seventy-eight-year-old organization issued a statement within hours of the attack and helped organize a vigil for peace in New York's Union Square. The

American Friends Service Committee

, while dispatching volunteers to help victims of the World Trade Center attack, launched a "No More Victims" campaign urging Bush to "look for diplomatic means to bring to justice the people who are responsible for this crime against humanity."

Peace Action

, while continuing its activism against Bush's National Missile Defense plan, made the case for treating the attackers as criminals rather than embarking on military actions. Said Peace Action's

Kevin Martin

, "A great nation does not punish the innocent to assuage its anguish." New groups such as the

Seattle 911 Peace Coalition

, as well as old peace and social justice organizations, mobilized to arrange teach-ins and rallies in cities from Boston to San Diego.... After the

Mobilization for Global Justice

called off planned protests against the IMF and World Bank, coalition partners began organizing marches and rallies in the Washington, DC, area to criticize Bush's handling of the crisis.... An interfaith statement signed by more than 1,500 Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist leaders was delivered to Congress and posted on the websites of the

National Council of Churches

(www.ncccusa.org) and

Sojourners

(www.sojo.net). The statement reads, in part, "Those culpable must not escape accountability. But we must not, out of anger and vengeance, indiscriminately retaliate in ways that bring on even more loss of innocent life."

VOICES OF EXPERIENCE Arab-Americans facing threats of violence and discrimination after the attacks found defenders among Japanese-Americans who recalled the abuses they suffered during World War II. "We're seeing a chilling echo of what happened sixty years ago," warned actor

George Takei

, one of 120,000 Japanese-Americans interned by the US government. Takei damned attackers of Arab-Americans, saying, "The fanatics are no better than the terrorists." The

Japanese American Citizens League

made common cause with the

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

in urging federal action to protect Arab-Americans, Muslims and immigrants. Democratic Representative

Mike Honda

of California, another former internee, is trying to convince the professional sports leagues to broadcast a statement condemning bigotry toward Arab-Americans. Warning against the "abandonment of our most cherished ideals when blinded by rage," Honda said any US response to the attacks must "make sure that we do not repeat the injustices visited upon one ethnic group in 1941."

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION? Members of Congress have been warned by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to keep mum about what they learn in briefings, the Voice of America was censored and Pentagon aides are restricting the flow of information about US military responses to the September 11 attacks. "I'm having flashbacks to Richard Nixon," says

Lucy Dalglish

, executive director of the

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

. Recalling battles over media access during the Vietnam War, Dalglish says, "Everything tells me this new fight will be the most covert war we have ever seen. If it drags on, as I think it will, we are very likely to see new Pentagon Papers situations where the government tries to prevent citizens from learning what is going on. That's dangerous in a democracy. People need to know whether a war is being pursued justly, or whether it is just cruel annihilation." Dalglish is pushing watchdog groups to reactivate a coalition that pressed for openness during the Gulf War.

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