From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. last Saturday, the Chester County Peace Movement, CCPM, held a silent meditation at the corners of High and Market Streets, to remember victims of war on this second anniversary of the War in Iraq. More than 36 concerned citizens, ranging from toddlers to seniors, attended the vigil, a majority silently reflecting under the “Old Glory” war memorial for the full two hours.Some held signs, others sat silently with their eyes closed, reflecting upon the magnitude of the anniversary. The CCPM have held peaceful Saturday protests on the busy corner for over two years.
A consistent crowd of 10 to 15 protesters, most of them CCPM members, have stood faithfully on the borough?s busiest corner through all types of weather, enduring all shades of criticism from passing cars and pedestrians. Saturday?s silent vigil attracted a more diverse crowd, many first-time attendees who found out about the vigil through the Internet or newspaper.
Mari Costello, a Norristown resident, attended her first corner protest Saturday. Reading about the war in the newspaper, she has grown more disturbed and concerned with the U.S.?s foreign policy of playing world police.
“I have a problem with our troops policing the world,” said Costello. Costello?s 25-year-old son was in Iraq from July until just a week ago. In three months he will be returning to Afghanistan. Having lived through two wars, Costello said, your perspectives on war seem to change. “Some things are more important in life,” said Costello, referring to the two hours she spent of her day at the vigil. “This will affect these menand women for the rest of their lives,” she said Protester Jon Brams stood like a statue behind a large cardboard cut-out of a hand-drawn skull, unable to hold his child and sign at the same time. Brams was given the skull by a husband and wife at an anti-war march back in 2002. “War is death,” Brams said.
The crowd fluctuated in size throughout the early afternoon, gaining greater physical support as the vigil progressed. The mass of silent individuals, set high above the intersection, portrayed the new wave of counter culture protesters.
No longer is the stereotype of a war protester the long haired, anti-establishment, college-aged activist of old. There were elementary school aged children holding signs that read, “War Is Not The Answer,” men in their sixties split time waving a rainbow PACE flag, and dozens of middle-aged people protested silently with the conviction and persistence of our nation?s greatest patriots.
The soundtrack of the afternoon was the streaking car horns (honking in support of the protesters), the loud overflow of music from open car windows and yelps and screams, some positive, others negative.
Karen Porter, founder of the CCPM, said the silent vigil was “a change of pace” to their otherwise non-silent Saturday protests. Thousands of silent vigils occurred around the world last weekend due to the war?s second anniversary.
The CCPM is a rapidly growing organization, roughly three years old, that represents at least 1,000 residents of Chester County of all faiths, income levels and political affiliations.
West Chester students held their own vigil last Thursday night in front of Sykes Union. The event was sponsored by WCU?s own “Students Stand Up For Peace,” and the “Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance.”
The CCPM and the SSUFP are preparing for the busy upcoming Peace Week, April 16-23, when poetry readings, guest speakers and anti-war films will be displayed throughout the area.