Anti-war group in DuPage says it's gaining support
By Stacy St. Clair Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted on October 01, 2002

A year ago, a small group of DuPage residents embraced an extremely unpopular anti-war stance.

But with emotions still raw from Sept. 11, their protests against war in Afghanistan evoked anger and incredulity from many.

"We were afraid of what the response would be around the county," said Rose Bagley of Naperville, who helped start the DuPage Peace Through Justice Coalition. "A lot of people disagreed with us."

Time, activists now contend, has somewhat thawed icy attitudes toward the anti-war movement.

As the United States inches toward war with Iraq, the coalition finds itself with a growing brethren.

"Often we get dismissed as being too narrow-minded," member Dave Martin said Monday. "We're seeing a marked difference right now."

The group is preparing to unveil the depths of the opposition this weekend at a peace rally. The two-hour event, which will start around 1 p.m. Saturday at the DuPage County Courthouse in Wheaton, is expected to attract more than 100 marchers.

The coalition will be protesting President Bush's plans to invade Iraq. The protests come as the administration tries to persuade both Congress and the United Nations to approve the use of military force against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime.

The president has argued Hussein and his arsenal pose a threat to world safety. Opponents, however, are pushing for additional weapons inspections and a more restrained approach in the already volatile region.

The coalition intends to echo those sentiments at its protest Saturday. The event will include a rally followed by a peace march and a silent vigil.

Organizers expect a large turnout given the warm reception they've received at recent protests. DuPage Peace activists - accustomed to working hard to find an audience for their views - are now being approached by strangers asking to sign petitions.

"More people are beginning to think the whole thing through and realize what a disaster this could be," Bagley said.

The group also has seen turnout surpass expectations at recent protests. In early September, organizers expected two dozen people to attend a candlelight vigil along the Naperville Riverwalk and hundreds showed up.

Likewise, they planned to have 35 people picket outside House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office in Batavia last week. In the end, 175 showed up for the mid-afternoon sit-in.

The response has organizers convinced opposition to a possible war with Iraq is greater than polls suggest.

"My sense is the breadth of opposition is growing wider," Martin said.