Demonstrations were delayed out of fear for members' safety.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Escalation of violence in the Middle East prompted a group of local women to put fears aside and speak out for peace, a spokeswoman said.
The group, Women in Black, conducted a demonstration Friday afternoon in front of the federal courthouse on Market Street. Similar rallies will be held every Friday until further notice, said Martha Katz of Youngstown.
Katz said the group opposes all violence and terrorism in the Middle East conflict and is patterned after a group of Israeli and Palestinian women who have demonstrated weekly in Jerusalem and other cities around the world since 1987.
The group began planning its peace rallies in September but held off because Arab members feared for their safety in the anti-Muslim backlash after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., Katz said.
"But with this latest violence in the Middle East, we decided we couldn't wait another minute," Katz said.
More than 50 people, mostly women, gathered on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse and carried signs calling for peace in the Middle East.
America's role: Katz said the United States government must use a more balanced approach in its efforts to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
She said remarks made this week by President Bush were a good start, but more needs to be done. She supported Bush's plan to dispatch Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East to meet with leaders there.
In his remarks, Bush demanded that Israel end its settlement activity and its ongoing assaults on Palestinian towns and villages. Bush said he intends to send Powell to the region next week.
Katz said her group also protests the "illegal 35-year-old military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights." That occupation must end before peace can be restored, she said.
Other women and men are invited to join future demonstrations, which will also be in front of the courthouse, she said.