November 5, 2001

Students, Faculty Protest for Peace

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After the attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, members of the Cornell community — concerned about the way the United States would respond to the events — came together to form Students for Peaceful Justice.

Comprised of members from the Cornell Greens, the United Progressives and others who are new to organizational activism, the group meets every Thursday in Anabel Taylor Cafe at 9 p.m.

Students for Peaceful Justice has been present to distribute information at each campus-wide vigil and has sponsored the Camp Out for Peace on Oct. 4, which featured night-long teach-ins. Since the attacks, they have worn white armbands and tied the now-ubiquitous white ribbons, symbolizing peace, on trees across campus. Following the first teach-in on Sept. 17, the group marched through campus and has often been tabling on Ho Plaza.

The initial move to unite was deeper than a decision — the group formed “instinctively,” said Dana Brown ’02. According to Brown, people feared possible military consequences before they “were even evident.”

Dedicated to serving as a forum for dialogue and dissent, the group realizes that “no one has all the answers,” Brown said. “That’s why we need to be talking to each other.”

Each week, Students for Peaceful Justice creates a flier on a different issue, to help people better understand the diverse issues at play in America’s bombing of Afghanistan.

One flier, for instance, was devoted to the Northern Alliance, pointing out that the Northern Alliance’s actions have been, for some time, a source of concern for both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The flier also cautions readers to recognize that the Northern Alliance’s record has tended to be “whitewashed” by the media, according to Mikush Schwam-Baird ’02.

The fliers and distribution of information are vital, since “things are constantly changing,” Brown added.

“In times of national crises … there’s sort of a knee jerk reaction to rally around the flag,” Schwam-Baird said. “You don’t have to be 100 percent opposed to official policy… but the door is still open to dissent,” he added.

On Nov. 9, the group will sponsor an informal teach-in focusing on the day of the national fast held to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Other organizations participating in the fast include the National Student Network, Pax Christie, an international human rights group which has been encouraging people to fast on Fridays since the United States began bombing Afghanistan, as well as other faith and university groups nationwide.

The group doesn’t “propose that by fasting we can change [policy],” Brown said. Rather, fasting is “a symbolic action” that can help to elicit dialogue.

The teach-in will feature speeches by professors and community members as well as dialogues on peace and justice issues. There will be tables with information and collection boxes for donations for Doctors Without Borders, one of the aid organizations to come out against America’s bombings. Laura Close, the field organizer for Students Transforming and Resisting Corporations, will also be on hand offering consensus and facilitation training.

“Fasting isn’t a prerequisite,” Schwam-Baird said. The forum will be held more to “create a drop-in center for people to come together.”

Archived article by Rachel Somerstein