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April 11, 2003


Nine Antiwar Doctors and Medical Students Arrested Outside Senator Feinstein's Office

San Francisco (April 7, 2003)-- Health professionals and students took to the streets of San Francisco today to raise their voices against the war in Iraq. More than 30 members of the Health Not War coalition marched from the San Francisco Department of Public Health to pro-war Senator Dianne Feinstein's office, connecting the spending on war in Iraq to cuts in health care funding at home.

As they marched through downtown San Francisco, the white-coated health workers were greeted with support from passers by, some of whom joined the demonstration. Protesters carried banners and signs with messages including "Do No Harm," "Peace is Good for Your Health" and "Future pediatricians for letting children live." They passed out "prescriptions for peace" to bystanders.

"When our government is waging a war that has already killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians and dozens of American soldiers, it is our duty as medical professionals to speak out," said Joanna Eveland, a student in the UCB-UCSF Joint Medical Program. Alan Steinbach, a family physician, agreed. "There are 40 million Americans who lack access to basic health services. The billions of dollars spent on this war should instead go towards supporting the health of American families." When the health workers arrived at Senator Feinstein's office, they held a rally and teach-in on the building steps. Health Not War members spoke forcefully about the public health crisis in America and the developing humanitarian disaster in Iraq.

Health Not War spent the last several weeks writing letters and making phone calls to Senator Feinstein's office, asking for a meeting with any member of her staff. All requests were ignored. When protesters arrived at her downtown San Francisco office this morning, they were again denied access to their elected representative. Health Not War planned to send a delegation to deliver a pro-peace resolution to the Senator. Delegation members made repeated phone calls to the Senator's office from outside, but were not allowed even to enter the building.

After two hours, protesters anxious to return to their patients and medical studies felt they had made every effort to reach Senator Feinstein. Danielle Rees, a graduate student in Public Health at UC Berkeley, explains the group's reasons for engaging in non-violent civil disobedience. "We believe strongly in democracy. When our elected officials refuse dialogue, democracy breaks down. We have no choice but to sit here peacefully until Senator Feinstein hears our message."

The Health Not War coalition includes faculty, staff and students from UC San Francisco, as well as community nurses, health educators and physicians. Graduate students from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health have also added their voices to the call for "Healthcare not Warfare." Groups represented at today's action included Physicians for Social Responsibility, California Physician's Alliance, Healthcare for All Californians, the Coalition of University Employees, and Justice Through Public Health. Health Not War also received a statement of support from Doctors and Nurses Against the War, a national organization of health professionals.

Over 300 UCSF faculty, students, and staff have signed a statement of conscience stating their opposition to the U.S.-led war against Iraq. The statement was published in this week's Synapse, the UCSF student newspaper. Health Not War plans to continue speaking out against the unjust war on Iraqi civilians and against cuts in health care for our patients here in the US.


For photos of the San Francisco demonstration, go to http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~wilmart/healthnotwarpics.htm. For information about the health and welfare of Iraqi civilians, see http://www.redcross.ca/article.asp?id=2744 and http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=15580 and http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/ED04Ak07.html