United for Peace and Justice turns July 4 into cause celebre

As the July 4th weekend approaches, most Americans have plans for barbecues and fireworks. But there is a growing initiative by some Americans to voice their concerns about the current state of the union and the war going on overseas.

As the July 4th weekend approaches, most Americans have plans for barbecues and fireworks. But there is a growing initiative by some Americans to voice their concerns about the current state of the union and the war going on overseas.

Independence Day is traditionally used to commemorate the birth of the nation and the struggle to gain freedom, but organizations like United for Peace and Justice (UPJ) are using the weekend to rally Americans in a united cry against President Bush and the war in Iraq.

UPJ's Web site, www.unitedforpeace.org, is encouraging people and groups to organize antiwar events during their local parades or to set up a picket or vigil in crowded shopping areas. And UPJ is just one of the many organizations doing so.

Why does it matter?

"As we look towards this 4th of July, I'd offer a word of caution and a word of hope," says Paul Johnson, regional head at Fleishman-Hillard. "I'd advise caution on the part of strategists within both political parties to refrain from attempting to deploy patriotism as a means to further their own respective political agendas. In particular, mischaracterizing public support for our troops in the field for a blank check to expend 'lives and treasure' overseas would be a serious mistake."

Johnson sees this as a contentious time with leadership challenges, but ultimately believes that America will overcome its strife and true leaders will emerge on the big issues that are currently facing the country.

Five facts:

1 CODEPINK, a UPJ affiliate, is starting a hunger strike in DC on July 4 to call for US troops to return from Iraq. The group is encouraging people to fast for at least one day.

2 People in Philadelphia will gather near the Liberty Bell on July 3 to read the names of those who have died in the war, and call for peace by signing the Declaration of Peace pledge, a nationally coordinated, non-violent call to action.

3 Cowboy Crush, an all-female country music band, will be visiting and performing for troops stationed in Italy over the holiday weekend. The tour is sponsored by Stars For Stripes and Armed Forces Entertainment Tour.

4 The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, will host a July 4 celebration with a moment to commemorate the soldiers who now serve - or have served - in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will include a military flyover during the national anthem.

5 The Federal Immigration Reform Enforcement Coalition is promoting a slew of events on www.firecoalition.com for the July 4th weekend to rally protesters against immigration laws that do not benefit current US residents.

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