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Rallying for peace
Some rallied halfway around the world, while others stayed on Orcas Island Feb. 15 to reflect quietly on why they chose to make a statement for peace.
Students at the Friday Harbor-based private Spring Street School joined with about 3,000 others at a peace rally in Bangkok, Thailand, while Lopez teacher Greg Ewert, his wife Nancy and their children joined what is believed to be a million-people march in London.
However, most of the approximately one hundred islanders who actively rallied for peace Feb. 15 didnt go nearly so far. They traveled to Seattle, where they joined with about 30,000 others who waved signs, listened to speeches, and marched through the downtown area to plead for a peaceful conclusion to the crisis in Iraq,
Some of the others made their statements without leaving Orcas. More than 20 islanders met at Orcas Home Grown Market & Deli for a potluck dinner at which they gave personal testimonies on why they were there.
Those who took part in the Seattle rally were men and women, young and old, students and senior citizens, upper, lower, and middle class people, and even many dogs.
Several made a special point of noting that the bulk of the crowd looked very mainstream, and that only a few looked like hippies. This was an obvious reference to the fact that protests against the Vietnam War in the 60s were often portrayed as marches by hippies and counter-culture people.
Virtually everybody who attended seemed to have a common purpose, and those who made the trip indicated they were glad they did, even while wondering if their efforts would change anything.
I went to be part of a larger voice, said Lopezian Susan ONeill, who attended the Seattle march. ONeill returned to the island the next day pleased with what she experienced. It was real positive, she said. People from all walks of life were there. It was a very quiet and very peaceful march.
These themes were repeated over and over again, by the likes of Lopez photographer Steve Horn and Orcas Island activist Libby Blackwell. Blackwell returned from Seattle exhilarated to have been a part of the rally. I thought it was fabulous, she said. I loved the speakers, and the tremendous cross-section of people. The dedication and spirit were terrific.
Among the young people who made the trip to Seattle were Orcas High School students Lyria Shaffer-Bauck, Lerner Limbach and Zach Robertson, plus several more from Lopez. Recent graduates of local high schools who now attend college in Seattle also attended the rally.
A senior and high honor student said she went to show my support, and be around people who share my views. And what did she think of the rally? It was amazing, she said. There were at least 30,000 people. It was really cool. Even the people on the sidewalks supported us, said Lyria Shaffer-Bauck, a senior at Orcas High.
Some of the most personally powerful commentary about the possibility of war came the evening of Feb. 15 at Orcas Home Grown Market & Deli.
Participants signed a letter which they will send to Kofi Annan, secretary - general of the United Nations. The letter urges the world body not to give into pressure from the United States for war. We fear it will take many innocent lives, the letter continued, and contribute to future instability in the United States and other parts of the world.
All who attended the potluck sat around a long table and spoke in turn. Here are two of the comments:
Lisbeth Fritzberg wondered, What if many other people are sitting at home alone? We need to hear each others voices and become one voice.
Salim Bailey, crying, said she found incredible news reports that many Americans support the war. Everyone Ive talked to opposes this war, she said. I feel terrified and frightened. I cant keep pretending any more that everything is nice.
As the potluck concluded, participants talked about arranging future gatherings for peace. One suggestion that seemed to get lots of support was to have an inter-island rally on the ferry, although no plans were formalized.