More than 150 U.S. cities - including Bloomington and Gary - have passed resolutions in recent months opposing military action in Iraq. On Monday night, just as President Bush told the nation that war could begin within the week, the Indianapolis City-County Council voted 15 to 13 on a resolution supporting a military solution to the conflict, and urging residents to "pray to the Almighty for peace."
Republican City-County Councilman Sean Frick pauses during discussion on his resolution supporting military action in Iraq. Anti-war protesters standing behind him shouted out rebuttals for his views.
More than 60 anti-war activists, ranging in age from high school students to retired veterans, turned out to protest the resolution, though no public testimony was permitted. Butler University political science students Melanie Sherwinski and Sarah Olson were among those against the resolution.
"No matter how much we do - writing letters, making phone calls, protesting - it just doesn't work," Olson said.
Mary Cartwright, a mother of four sitting nearby, agreed. "It's really frustrating not to have any kind of voice," she said.
A young activist, Justin Goodpaster, said he and others carrying protest signs had difficulty getting past the security guards. "I think it's really important we show a visible opposition to this war," he said. "They tried to inhibit us, but they didn't succeed."
When Councilor Sean Frick, co-author of the pro-war resolution with council President Philip Borst, began reading the text of the resolution aloud, opposition to it was visible within the council itself, and throughout the chamber, as protesters raised signs reading "No Iraq War" and veterans hoisted a U.S. flag bearing an image of a dove.
"The time for filling the air with platitudes and talk is ending," Frick said, echoing President Bush's stance. When Frick spoke of supporting the men and women serving in the armed forces in the Gulf, protesters responded with shouts of "Support our troops through peace" and "Don't waste their lives."
Many Democrat councilors voiced their disapproval of Frick's resolution, and Councilor Karen Horseman offered an amendment that took no stance on war, but simply expressed support for troops, and a wish for their safe return. Horseman felt the council had no jurisdiction to take a vote on a foreign policy issue.
"By supporting a resolution supporting this war, we only divide the community further," she said. Horseman's amendment was defeated by a tied vote, 14 to 14. "It's pretty easy for us to play armchair quarterback and decide we need to go to war," Councilor JoAnne Sanders said, noting that even New York, the city most affected by the terrorist attacks, has passed an anti-war resolution.
"This is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue - this is a human rights issue. Let us recognize the value of all human life, regardless of ethnic origin." Sanders also raised the question of what an Iraq war would cost, including "costs that cannot be defined on a balance sheet."
After the vote, protesters chanted slogans until a dozen Indianapolis Police Department officers arrived to clear the chamber. Some protesters lingered outside, among them retired minister John Gibson. "There is no justification in "just war" theory for this war," he observed, "because there is no clearly established threat. There are only conjectures. We are risking lives, and the whole world sees through it."