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    LB's First Congregational Church "Stop the War Ministry Team" Holds Pre-Vets Day Event Outside LB VA Hospital Urging U.S. Troop Withdrawal From Iraq

    (Nov. 10, 2006) -- On the eve of Veterans Day, and just days after voters ousted Republicans from control of Congress, members of LB's First Congregational Church "Stop the War Ministry Team" and their supporters gathered outside LB's VA Hospital to urge withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, part of a series of measures advocated by the Declaration of Peace coalition (further below).

    Carrying signs saying, "Support Our Troops, Bring Them Home Now," "Bricks & Mortar, Not Bombs & Bullets" and "Honk To End The War," the event prompted a few unsupportive hand gestures from some passing drivers, but these were outnumbered by supportive horn honks from drivers on the busy street leading from the 405/22 freeways into LB.

    Almost 100 people (we counted 86 shortly after 6 p.m. with others continuing to arrive) lined the sidewalk from 5 p.m.-7 p.m.. LB's First Congregational Church group said in a release that the event was "in honor of Veterans Day"...and event supporters worked with "veterans peace groups in organizing the pro-veteran, pro-peace rally."

    The action follows a similar demonstration by the local group outside LB's downtown federal building in September.

    Shortly after 6 p.m., candles were lit. The event was well-organized. Most signs were pre-printed (or computer generated). One participant carried a hand-lettered homemade sign saying "Impeach Bush."

    In a sidewalk interview Robert Kalayjian, M.D. [in photo foreground], spokesperson/vice-moderator for the 1st Congregational Church's "Stop the War Ministry Team," said:

    "We feel very strongly the best thing we can for the vets is bring 'em home and end this war." What does he think of the Nov. 7 election? "I think the Democrats need to be reminded that they have to step up to the plate and fix this problem that was created by a Republican administration and I have not seen the kind of leadership before this election, I haven't seen it since the election, that would indicate that they're going to actually do what needs to be done which is to pull the troops out of Iraq..."

    We also asked Dr. Kalayjian about the portion of the Declaration of Peace that advocates having the U.S. pay reparations to Iraq...and his views on completing the mission the troops were sent to accomplish. To hear an extended audio clip of Dr. Kalayjian's responses (includes one edit, indicated by a "whoosh" sound) click here. (Run time 3:29; file size approx. 1.4 MB, MP3 format; we'll keep it posted to the extent our server space permits.)

    Among the participants was North Long Beach activist Roger Holman. He said the Nov. 7 election showed that the public wants changes in current policy.

    Also attending was long-time LB activist Sharon Cotrell. What did she think of the Nov. 7 election? "A lot of us don't believe the Democrats are good enough [with a chuckle] but we now know they do make a difference [laughs], there is a difference, and we really look forward to not losing any more huge chunks of our Bill of Rights and an end to the war, hopefully."

    The national Declaration of Peace organization said on its website (viewed Nov. 10):

    The Declaration of Peace is a commitment to take nonviolent steps for a comprehensive, concrete and rapid end to the US war in Iraq, including:

  • Withdrawal of US troops and all coalition forces
  • Closure of US military bases
  • Support for an Iraqi-led peace process, including a peace conference to shape a postoccupation transition and an international peacekeeping presence if mandated by this peace process
  • Return of Iraqi control over its oil resources and the political and economic life of the nation
  • Reparations and reconstruction to address the destruction caused by the US war and thirteen years of sanctions
  • Establish a "peace dividend" for job creation, health care, education, housing, and other vital social needs
  • Increased support for US veterans of the Iraq war, and
  • No so-called "preventive" war against Iran or any other nation
  • Stop-the-War Ministry Team Chair Edric Guise said in his group's release, "There are more than 44,000 injured U.S. military service people in the Iraq war and our nation must honor their sacrifice by supporting veterans healthcare. Our nation must also protect against continued deaths and injuries by putting together a comprehensive plan with the Iraqis to end the war and bring home our troops."

    LB's First Congregational Church's Stop-The-War Ministry Team release said it's "pursuing conversations with several local Congressional representatives regarding action on the war given the results of the Congressional election."

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