Baptist Peacemakers Support Denver Anti-War Protests
By Daniel M. Schweissing
Denver, CO – When I arrived at the RTD bus stop near the front of the Colorado State Capitol shortly after noon on Sunday [March 19, 2006], fellow BPFNA member Beth Kieft was already there. A few minutes later, we caught the bus to East High School, which was the starting point for the Troops Out Now Coalition’s protest march for the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. A number of other protesters with picket signs, including a Mennonite pastor, accompanied us on the ride and several of the passengers expressed their support for our anti-war efforts.
After arriving at East High School, we mingled with other protesters as we waited to line up for the march. Our picket sign, which had “Baptist Peacemakers” written on one side and “They will beat their swords into plowshares” on the other, served as a good conversation starter with others who were interested in learning more about our faith-based peacemaking efforts. As there were only two of us from BPFNA, we eventually joined friends from the Mountain View Friends Meeting when it was time to line up for the march.
The chilly, overcast skies threatened us with a major spring snowstorm as we began the two-mile march back to the State Capitol. As we marched west on Colfax Avenue with roughly a thousand other protesters, I was expecting an angry, noisy march with lots of protest chants to the sound of drumbeats that could be heard from blocks away. In fact, we did hear some occasional drumbeats and chanting from the front of the march two blocks ahead. But for those of us bringing up the rear, we mostly marched in silence, conversed with other marchers, and enjoyed the largely positive feedback—honking of horns, V for victory signs, and waving and shouting—from the eastbound drivers.
A perennial problem in the anti-war movement has been finding ways to cobble together broad coalitions to march and rally together without each group digressing into its own agenda. As we rallied at the State Capitol following the march, we had the opportunity to listen to a variety of inspiring anti-war messages from poets, activists, war veterans, and local clergy. But eventually the speakers began digressing from the war—the one issue that we all agreed on—and began spending more and more podium time on their own issues such as police brutality, immigration, and Native American rights.
What did we accomplish? Media coverage of the march and rally was limited, with only one of Denver’s two major newspapers running an article and local television news giving us just a thirty-second blurb. And more likely than not, our efforts—which mostly amounted to preaching to the choir—had minimal influence on our congressional representatives who have the power to stop the war. What we did do, hopefully, is to reenergize ourselves so that we can get back to the less-glamorous task of doing the work in between marches needed to bring about an end to this war.
What did we learn? I was surprised and encouraged by the fact that most rank-and-file citizens seemed to be largely supportive of our anti-war efforts. As peacemakers, this should challenge us to find ways to tap into that support as we continue our efforts to end the war. And as a Baptist, I was especially encouraged by the many folks who expressed their appreciation for our efforts to contribute a religious voice—albeit a small one—to the anti-war effort. Hopefully, such encouragement will inspire more Baptist peacemakers to participate in future anti-war events.
Photo: BPFNA members Beth Kieft and Dan Schweissing joined the Troops Out Now Coalition’s rally for the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver (photo by Paul Verizzo).
read event coverage in the Rocky Mountain News