The Daily Herald

May 1, 2003

Area peace groups insist speech won't end activism

Peace groups plan to continue

By Tona Kunz
Daily Herald Staff Writer

Local peace activists say President Bush's expected speech tonight that the major combat in Iraq has ended won't signal their disbanding.

"We have lots of people that want to stay active in some way," said Elgin resident Mary Shesgreen of Fox Valley Citizens for Peace. "The people that oppose this war have been really aroused, and we are not going away, but our focus may change."

The group rose to prominence through candle-light vigils and protests in Elgin and the Tri-Cities as the United States geared up for war. Like many such groups buoyed by the turnout at protests, they plan to continue meeting, though in a less visible fashion, and stay ready for the next war.

All the groups seem sure Bush will flex his military muscle again.

"I fear there will not be a long time delay between Iraq and some other war," said Kevin Lindemann, co-chair of DuPage Peace Through Justice Coalition.

The focus has shifted to the saber rattling in Syria, Iran, North Korea and Cuba and in far-flung countries where America has troops that could easily get pulled into local battles such as the cocaine-fueled civil war brewing in Colombia.

"I think our numbers have increased 600 since the war with Iraq," said Bernice Barta, a board member of the Cook County-based North Suburban Peace Initiative.

Will those people become a footnote in the annuals of band-wagon activists or stay as rank-and-file protestors for peace?

"I hope they stay, because I think we need to keep organized to change things. It's a small world now," she said.

Groups that never invested in Web sites and newsletters seem most likely to fall apart as the picture of bombs on CNN fade. They have trouble tracking their members and suffer from single-issue syndrome.

"We formed after Sept. 11, so we have been through this before," Lindemann said.

The key to survival is having a host of causes and networking, he added.

Several activist groups draw members from outside the borders their names imply. DuPage-based activists have shown up at protests in Kane and Cook counties. Lake County activists hit the vigil circuits in McHenry and Cook counties.