Local peace activists bring attention to war

First published:
Feb 26, 2003

There is a saying in community activism that goes: think global; act local. This was the spirit of 300 people from across Northumberland County who gathered in Cobourg in front of Victoria Hall to protest the threat of war in Iraq.

Those from Northumberland were joining with others around the world that wanted to get the attention of United States President George Bush and his coalition of nations hell bent on bringing down military wrath on Saddam Hussein.

Northumberland’s protest was one of 600 events in major cities around the world. Barcelona, Spain, held the largest protest with an estimated 1.3 million people in attendance. Toronto’s protest involved some 80,000 people. It was the biggest worldwide anti-war demonstration since Viet Nam, more than 25 years ago.

Besides the usual array of social activists from the community, it was good to see a healthy representation of young people. Notably, Bryan Greer, a 17-year old, who designed the poster for the march.

After a number of speeches by poverty groups, local youth and church officials, a petition of 200 signatures was presented to Northumberland MP Paul Macklin. The marchers then went along King Street, up William Street to the county building where they dispersed. About 150 people later gathered at St. Peter’s Anglican church for a prayer service later in the afternoon.

It is too easy to say a protest by 300 people means little in the overall scheme of things. Nobody is fantasizing that Bush or anyone on his staff are saying to themselves, “Oh no, those people in Northumberland are against this war. We had better stop.”

In fact, despite the millions of people who did march around the world, it appears to have little impact on policy makers in Washington. And while the political maneuvers at the United Nations and across Europe have slowed Bush down, it appears he is not prepared to back down.

So why go out and brave sub-zero temperatures, carry a placard or even sign a petition.

Because it makes a huge difference in our community.  It raises awareness of the issues. It gives us a forum to express ourselves.

Kudos should go the Maclean Davey and Grant Dingwall for bringing their perspective to the event. Both these young men support military action in the Iraq. While it may not have been the majority viewpoint, it is good to see a diversity of opinion and equal conviction.

A public display of deeply held personal beliefs gives us a feeling of empowerment. And that is something very precious. As long as we feel our opinion matters, even on the smallest level, and we are prepared to take action to express our views, then all is not lost.

Despite how badly Bush wants the world to feel this war is inevitable, it is not. This is a tactic used quite frequently by politicians to bully opponents. We see it locally all the time. Wal-Mart comes to town. Public schools like L.B. Powers must close. Nothing can be done. The list is long.

Well the opposite is true. A poll released on the weekend by EKOS Research Associates said support in Canada for the war on Iraq is reaching new lows.  Seventy-four per cent would oppose Canada’s participation in a war without the full support of the United Nations Security Council.

But this is a long way from peace.

A group called the Northumberland Peace Coalition is planning more. A petition continues to be circulated and copies can be found in various high profile places. It will be sent off to Macklin, along with the existing 200 signatures later this week.

For those more literary, a letter or email directly to Macklin, the Prime Minister or others in cabinet would make a difference.

“We must be the change we wish to see,” said Mahatma Gandhi.

His nonviolent protest brought independence to India. Northumberland County residents should aspire to dream for peace with the same spirit.

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