On Saturdays, Kendal Calls for Peace
At noon on a Saturday morning, most Oberlin residents are enjoying a leisurely breakfast at home, getting a head start on the weekend’s work or taking care of a number of personal tasks. However, a small but mighty group of Oberlin students, Kendal senior citizens and Peace Community Churchgoers stand at the corner of West College St. and North Main St. every Saturday, holding handmade signs protesting the war in Iraq.
A self-described “coalition of the unwilling,” the stalwart group has taken their place from noon to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Gerry McNabb, a Kendal resident and member of the Quaker meeting, proudly displayed her “War is not the Answer” sign around her neck as she described what has moved her to participate weekly for five years.
“We’ve got to take a stand. This war is costing our country two billion a week. That money could do so much good in our country. For instance, a third of Cleveland is in poverty.” McNabb paused to wave to a car honking in support, then shook her head. “That’s just not right.”
Pastor Steve Hammond of the Peace Community Church, the original organizer of the peace vigil, is proud that his coalition “has stood through rain, snow and hail” and feels that the group “stands for U.S. values in a way that’s better than killing.”
Over the years, the protest has garnered different reactions from the community.
“People have mostly been supportive,” said Hammond. “But we’ve had a few negative responses. Sometimes we get what I call the ‘one-fingered peace sign’ and once a woman pulled over and yelled at us for not supporting the troops.”
Hammond sighed, “I’d rather support them by bringing them home.”
Besides the vigil, Hammond began holding monthly Peace Potlucks for the campus and community to make connections and discuss non-violence and conflict resolution. The next Peace Potluck will take place on Oct. 27.
“In a small community like Oberlin, it’s easy to network,” says Hammond. “But I believe that we should encourage others in nearby counties to join us.”
Several Oberlin students participated in the half-hour vigil, including senior Sally Kintner and junior Jenny Lang.
“I got accosted today in front of the bank,” said Kintner, smiling as she waved her poster at a passing car. “They handed me an extra sign and I joined them. I’ve had a really good time, and I’d like to come back.”
“I’d always heard about the peace vigil, but never understood what it was,” explained Lang, who interns at the Peace Community Church to help make students aware of peace and justice projects and to encourage them to participate.
“I think it sends a very positive message. Now people who drive by know that there are others out there who stand for peace, so they don’t feel alone,” she said.
The group’s upcoming plans are ambitious: a “crop walk” to raise money for hunger issues, an Energy Summit for students and community members and a Peace and Conflict Studies concentration at Oberlin College. Until these projects lift off the ground, the proud vigil will stand in Tappan Square, always eager for new members to stand for the old idea of peace.