---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 21 Oct 2002 12:42:40 -0700
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Veteran anti-war activists rejoin fold
Veteran anti-war activists rejoin fold
by Brian E. Albrecht
Plain Dealer Reporter
Once, the streets of Cleveland and cities across the country echoed with
cries of "Peace now!" shouted by marchers bearing such signs as "Stop
the bombing" and "Bring the troops home." Far from the haze of
gunsmoke and napalm, the scent of burning draft cards and civil
disobedience drifted in the air.
Thirty years ago, as the war in Vietnam raged, all they were saying was
give peace a chance.
Today, the possibility of war with Iraq has prompted plans for mass protest
and rallies Saturday in Washington and San Francisco, and in a case of
dissent deja vu, the old sentiments and slogans are surfacing again.
As they should, according to local veteran activists who are gearing up
once more for
action on some familiar turf.
The long hair may be graying or gone, but the fire in the belly still burns.
It burns in Katie Baird of Mantua, who chaired the anti-war Cleveland Area
Peace-Action Council from 1970 to 1972.
"This [possible war with Iraq] looks so much like Vietnam, it's scary," she
said. "I get the same sense of foreboding. It's time to get back to the
During the late 1960s and early '70s, Cleveland provided several leaders
for the national anti-war movement.
Those leaders included Dr. Benjamin Spock, the famed baby doctor and a
professor at Western Reserve University; fellow WRU faculty member
Sidney Peck, who co-chaired the National Mobilization Committee to End
the War in Vietnam; and Jerry Gordon.
Gordon is coordinator of the National Peace Action Coalition.
Gordon, now the 73-year-old chairman of the Ohio Labor Party, is
organizing trade-union opposition to an Iraqi war, as part of what he
expects will be a broader cross section of dissenting Americans than was
seen during the Vietnam era.
Back then, students formed the bulk of peace demonstrators, according
to Gordon. This time, economics will bring others into the fold, he said.
"The government is telling us it has no money for prescription drugs for
seniors, or jobs, or education, but along comes a war and suddenly it has
money galore," Gordon said. "During Vietnam, [President] Johnson talked
about guns and butter. Here, it's guns or butter, and workers are upset."
To Baird, the lessons of Vietnam laid the groundwork for contemporary
dissent. "Before I joined the anti-war movement, I was raised on Reader's
Digest and the Bible, when no one would ever think the government would
lie to us," she said. "Those days are gone forever."
Baird hopes to join Saturday's protest march in Washington, sponsored
by the International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism)
campaign and coordinated locally through such groups as the People's
Fightback Center, formed during America's first war with Iraq in 1991.
Fightback organizer Martha Grevatt, 45, of Cleveland, remembers when
her parents took her to protest rallies during the Vietnam War; their
generation is back in the fray again, she said.
"We're getting a lot of people who really haven't been active since the
Vietnam protest feeling compelled to get back on the streets, plus a
whole new generation of first-protest activists," she said.
But those marching on Washington next weekend won't include veteran
peace campaigner Katherine Marshall, of Rocky River. At 84, "I'm going to
have to sit this one out," said Marshall, who was executive secretary of
the University Circle Teach-in Committee that hosted national
peace-protest planning conferences during the 1960s.
She will, however, lobby federal legislators by mail and phone, joining
similar efforts being conducted by Cleveland Peace Action - a former
anti-nuclear war group that nearly died with the end of the Cold War but
found new life in the first Gulf War.
Francis Chiappa, president, said many of the group's 250 members are
longtime activists, some going back to the anti-Communist hysteria of
McCarthyism in the 1940s and '50s.
Chiappa, 52, of Cleveland Heights, said protest of a possible war with Iraq
differs from the Vietnam era in that "this time we have a group of activists
willing to stand up for peace before the bullets start flying."
Former Vietnam War protester Bob Charlick, a Cleveland Peace Action
board member and professor of political science at Cleveland State
University, expects that opposition to war with Iraq will continue building
and intensify if the conflict "turns out to be a long and bloody process."
Charlick, 60, of Cleveland Heights, said that although the protest
movement will probably always represent a minority of Americans, "it's
important to some of us who were active during the Vietnam War that our
children and grandchildren know we're not giving up on the idea that this
country can have a better foreign policy than this one and do not approve
of attacking without provocation.
"As to [protesters] stopping the war, it's seriously doubtful," he added.
"But we can raise the level of public debate, and it could become an issue
in congressional races and maybe even the next presidential election."
Local peace activists don't expect an easy campaign.
"I remember early in the Vietnam protest when people spit at us," Baird
said. "But eventually the anti-war sentiment became so widespread that it
did, in fact, help end the war. It always starts small, but if you're
"And maybe that's what we have to do now."
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