Thursday, January 29, 2009

Waukesha peace group still vigilant



On Monday evening, as I was driving home from our death penalty vigil, I listened to the NPR report on the activists in Potsdam, NY putting down their anti-war signs, now that Obama is in the White House.  What a disappointment.  But many of us are still vigiling after all these years as the Empire is still killing in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.  So it was good to read that Waukesha peace people were not lulled to sleep by the election.





Waukesha County

Posted: Jan. 27, 2009


By Laurel Walker | In My Opinion


"Waukesha peace group still vigilant"


Peace activists keeping vigil in Potsdam, N.Y., are - temporarily, at

least - closing up shop, I learned from a report Monday on National

Public Radio's "All Things Considered."


For more than six years, members of this group had held their weekly

protests in front of the Potsdam post office, like hundreds of groups

have done around the country. But they decided to take a break now

that Barack Obama is president, NPR reported. They want to give him a

chance to do what he said he'd do - end the war and bring the troops

home from Iraq.


It brought to mind the brave little band of peaceniks (I write that

with fondness) who have been gathering each Sunday at Waukesha's

Cutler Park for seven years - even before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.


I last paid attention to them in a February 2003 column written as the

United States prepared for war. Its troops were amassing in Kuwait,

and United Nations inspectors were still looking for weapons of mass

destruction that weren't there.


A larger-than-normal group had gathered along Wisconsin Ave. back in

2003 as part of a day of global protest against starting the war.


We know too well how much good that did.


Just as with the Potsdam group, passing motorists greeted Waukesha's

peace activists that day with honking horns, middle-finger salutes,

peace signs, thumbs up, thumbs down.


The Waukesha vigil-keepers are still at it.


Sunday after Sunday, more than 360 Sundays later, they still gather at

Cutler Park. Often, it's just a handful, especially in winter's

horrible chill. Last Sunday, there were five, including an Iraq War

vet. The Sunday before, 10.


"We are definitely still going," says Judith Williams, director of the

Catholic Worker House and a longtime peace activist. "The war is not



But this is the dawn of a new day. We have a president whose unlikely

campaign was jump-started with his early opposition to the war. Now

President Obama has his hands full with an economic mess of gargantuan



But he's also leading on the foreign front - both militarily and

diplomatically. He ordered the Guantanamo detention center closed in a

year. He met with his military leaders on Day One and called for their

exit plan for Iraq. Exactly the kinds of moves he said he'd make, the

kinds of moves that give Potsdam protesters relief and a belief they

can back off.


In Wisconsin, 30 groups of vigil-keepers, from Ashland to Milwaukee,

aren't backing off, according to Judy Miner, office coordinator in

Madison for the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice. Some meet

weekly, some monthly, some for only a half-hour in winter.


"What we're hearing from groups is it's even more important for us to

be out," to show the president they support an end to the war, she



Williams agreed, saying of the Waukesha group, "We have a very strong

conviction that the war has to be very clearly over."


Which war? I asked. Because as sure as the president says he's ending

one war, he's ratcheting up - as promised - the other in Afghanistan,

where he so far seems to have more public support.


Williams said she differs with Obama on the Afghan moves.


But for now, Iraq is what these vigils are about. One war at a time.


Call Laurel Walker at (262) 650-3183 or e-mail




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