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Some Americans Support Non-Violent Response to Terror Attacks - 2001-09-18

Nationwide polls in the United States suggest most Americans support President Bush's plans for a military response against those responsible for terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. last week. But, some Americans are urging the president to consider a non-violent response.

Tuesday morning in downtown Chicago, a ring of about 150 people circled a federal building. They stood silently, some holding signs offering prayers for the victims of the terrorist attacks. But the group is also hoping that the United States' response to the attacks will be a non-violent one. Rev. Michael Yasutake says America should not react out of anger.

"Many people are in a very ugly mood. At the same time they mourn for those who are suffering, there seems to be a feeling of rage against other people, which is very dangerous," Rev. Yasutake says.

Nationwide polls conducted in recent days suggest as much as 70 percent of the country feels the U.S. government should retaliate for the attacks, even if it means innocent people are killed in that action. Dick Heidkamp says that's wrong.

"I think of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King who said, 'An eye for an eye leaves all of us blind.' That is how I feel, very strongly," he says.

That quote, originally attributed to Indian independence leader Mohandas Ghandi, has been used often lately by people who oppose a military retaliation for the attacks. But those people appear to be a small and, so far, not very vocal minority of American public opinion. More commonly-expressed thoughts are like those of Sumner Farren, who passed the prayer vigil on his way to work Tuesday.

"I respect them for their views and you do not want to see what happened here happen over there," she says. " On the flip side, though, I think you have to send a strong message that this cannot occur over here as easy as it has in the past."

Still, even though most Americans want retaliation for the attacks, polls suggest about 80 percent want the government to be sure about who is responsible before striking back.

Those calling for non-violence say they agree those responsible should be caught and punished. They also agree with the president's desire to fight terrorism. Roman Catholic nun Barbara Battista says the best way to fight anti-American terrorism is to look into its causes.

"To really learn and understand why it is that so many people across this world of ours hate us and our policies and feel oppressed by our country," she says.

There have been no large anti-war protests so far, although a coalition of groups in Chicago is planning to meet in the near future to discuss possible responses to the country's war preparations.