---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2002 15:11:11 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Plain Folks For Peace
PLAIN FOLKS FOR PEACE
Nov 18, 2002
By Guy Ashley
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
Hometown pride swept over Jane Hyde one afternoon last month as
she stood at an intersection in leafy Lafayette, rallying with a swarm of
moms, dads, sons and daughters.
The crowd had gathered to change mindsnot about a pending
school bond measure or drivers who run red lights on city streets, but
about the Bush administration's possible march toward war with Iraq.
Hyde and nearly 100 other suburbanites were airing their opposition
to pre-emptive military strikes when a passing driver in a shiny sport
utility vehicle issued a challenge: "Go back to Berkeley."
The comment nearly caused Hyde, 43, to go after the driver with her
"Soccer Mom Against War" picket sign.
Then she realized he was missing the point. This wasn't Berkeley, or
San Francisco, or some other left-leaning college town. This wasn't
the regular assortment of button-wearing activists who cover their
hybrid vehicles and VW buses with bumper stickers.
This was a quiet, comfortable suburbthe kind of place President
Bush might choose for a Bay Area stop.
This was the real battleground in the war of public opinion over war.
"I grew up in Pacific Heights and now I live in Orinda," she said. "My
husband's a Republican."
The pocket of activism that came to life in Lafayette has counterparts
in outlying communities throughout Northern California, indeed
around the country.
While there's no way to know how deep the opposition is, or whether
it will match pro-war sentimentsthe awakening to anti-war activism
is giving hope to veteran peace activists desperate to find reason to
believe war with Iraq can still be averted.
"It's when you see significant numbers of middle-class suburban
people rallying to the cause that you know, eventually, it's going to
win," said Stephen Zunes, associate professor of politics at the
University of San Francisco.
Like politicians and pundits everywhere, Zunes was struck by the
size, breadth and passion of anti-war demonstrations in Washington,
D.C., and San Francisco last month.
But more distressing for forces promoting military action would have
been the scenes at East Bay BART stations before the march, where
suburbanites in sneakers jammed trains toting baby backpacks,
walkers, cameras, bullhorns and peace placards in preparation for
their anti-war adventure in the big city.
"They've got to see we're not fringy, flaky people," said Terry Leach,
an attorney, mother of three and die-hard Democrat from Orinda who
has found herself at the center of building resistance to war in Contra
It isn't just the hard-core protest crowd sparking this wave of
opposition. It has included 300 Bay Area religious leaders standing
hand in hand on the Golden Gate Bridge to express opposition to the
president's pre-emptive strike policy.
The movement also has embraced parents and grandparents attending
tea parties in East Bay homes and churches to energize anti-war
activism. It has spawned the transformation of an Orinda book club
into a women's group for peace that peppers local legislators with
e-mails and leads local demonstrations.
"A lot of us live in places like Martinez, Antioch and Pittsburg," said
Jeanelyse Doran, director of the Mount Diablo Peace Center in
Walnut Creek. "And we look just like you."
That isn't to say that peace groups traditionally at the center of
anti-war movements are ceding their places at the table. Groups like
the Mt. Diablo Peace Center and California Peace Action say
membership, and financial contributions, have jumped markedly since
the push toward war began hitting the front pages in September.
"We're booming," said Peter Ferenbach, executive director of
California Peace Action, a 45-year-old peace group in Berkeley with
35,000 dues-paying members throughout the state.
The group, whose 40 staff members lead a legion of volunteers in a
door-to-door peace campaign, said member contributions will fuel a
surge in its annual budget next year, from $1.4 million to $1.9 million
at a time of economic downturn.
Stalwarts in the search for alternatives to war say they're energized by
signs of citizens from all walks rallying to their cause. But they balk at
being called leaders of the anti-war movement.
"In a very real sense there are no leaders," said Medea Benjamin,
founding director of the San Francisco human rights group Global
Instead, she sees activists of many stripes joining together. There are
anti-globalization forces who believe the military would be used to
enhance U.S. corporate might; those leading fights for a living wage,
improved child care and access to affordable housing who say that
billions spent on war will drain resources for their causes; and
religious leaders who say pre-emptive military strikes are immoral.
"It's coming from the bottom up," said Jackie Cabasso, chairwoman
of the People's Nonviolent Response Coalition, an East Bay peace
group initiated after Sept. 11, 2001, but galvanized by the move
toward war. "This movement did not materialize because some big
organization in Washington issued a decree."
Ferenbach said his group has spent much time lately responding to
and nurturing anti-war activities, not fomenting them. In recent weeks,
California Peace Action has provided literature, speakers and other
resources to opposition groups springing up in Grass Valley,
Bakersfield, Albany and Ventura.
Decentralized leadership does not result in a rudderless ship, anti-war
activists say. Some veterans of the movement to stop the Vietnam
War say cell-based opposition could be a force much more difficult to
"It's a completely new ballgame," said David Wellman, a professor of
community studies at UC Santa Cruz who, as a graduate student, was
active in Students for a Democratic Society during the Vietnam War.
"We had known identifiable leaders. They could be arrested and you
could cripple the movement by harassing its leadership."
A decentralized movement is not only more difficult to infiltrate,
Wellman said, "they don't know who the leaders are."
That's not to say that activating a multilegged movement is a simple
Peace organizers everywhere worry their message might become
cluttered or that extremists might commandeer the anti-war coalition.
Todd Gitlin, a Columbia University sociologist and a high-profile
veteran of the 1960s peace movement, said far-left groups whose
ideas mainstream America would find impossible to swallow could
easily hijack today's anti-war movement.
His was among many dire predictions that dogged preparations for
the big Oct. 26 demonstrations across the country. The San
Francisco and Washington, D.C., rallies were organized by
International Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, or ANSWER
Coalition. That group's frontman, former U.S. Attorney General
Ramsey Clark, is on the committee defending Slobodan Milosevic
against war crimes charges in The Hague.
The coalition is an outgrowth of the International Action Center,
which in the past has been seen as an apologist for the Iraqi and
North Korean governments. Indeed, America's peace movement
suffered bitter divisions during the gulf war due to the center's refusal
to condemn Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
Prior to the Oct. 26 rally, Gitlin went so far as to say the anti-war
movement would crumble as soon as it got off the ground, because of
extremist views espoused by groups like ANSWER.
But Gitlin said he has been flooded with positive reviews from
anti-war groups on both coasts.
"The desire to turn out against the war may indeed be so large that the
views of any one group are immaterial," Gitlin said. "But the danger
still lurks that this movement will be usurped by groups who are
unable to address the anti-war feelings of a great majority of people
who oppose the war, including conservatives."
Technology and organization
The task of distilling a constellation of viewpoints into a cogent
anti-war movement is fraught with difficulty, said Ferenbach of
California Peace Action. But what would have been impossible in the
days of Vietnam is within reach today.
"It has to do with technologywith cell phones and the Internet,"
UC Santa Cruz professor Wellman said.
As Congress debated the Bush administration's war resolution,
e-mails, faxes, petitions and phone calls from hundreds of thousands
of constituents deluged House and Senate members.
Many of these anti-war voices were spurred to action by online
campaigns coordinated by groups such as UnitedforPeace.org, and
the faith-based EndtheWar.org.
Jane Hyde said she prefers the online activism site
"It's probably the only way I could be activated in this way in my life
right now," said Hyde, a married mother of two soccer-playing
daughters. "For me, it's the difference between being engaged on this
issue and being out there alone worrying myself to death."
Many people who aren't activated online find inspiration to participate
"It's not just the Quakers and the usual cast of characters this time,"
said Alan Jones, chairman of the San Francisco Interfaith Council.
"This is the broad middle of the religious community that finds the
notion of pre-emptive war morally unacceptable."
Bob Edgar, a former congressman and chairman of the National
Council of Churches, said the religious community's quick activation
to oppose war with Iraq is remarkable, considering it took 12 years
for mainline churches to oppose war in Vietnam.
One '60s anti-war activist said he found the broad spectrum of
resistance to war with Iraq astounding, especially given the relative
quiet on the college campuses that ignited opposition to the Vietnam
In his day, campuses were full of activists who had honed their
organizing skills in the Free-Speech and civil rights movements, said
David Harris, an author and former Stanford student body president
who spent 20 months in federal prison for dodging the draft.
"The movement today is still finding its way," Harris, 56, said. "In
large part, I believe it's because there is not a big supply of trained
organizers with time on their handsi.e., the young. So far it has
fallen on the old farts of my generation who are locked into mortgages
and have limited time and resources."
But that will change as the push toward war intensifies, Harris said.
"Hey, this is comparable to 1964."
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