November 12, 2001

Students Protest for Peace

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Members of the Cornell and Ithaca communities gathered at Ho Plaza on Friday afternoon in a peaceful protest against the current war in Afghanistan.

The event was coordinated by the student organization Peaceful Justice, and was in conjunction with a day of fasting. This fast was observed not only by members of Cornell, but also by peace organizations at schools across the country, such as Princeton University, Boston College, Oberlin College and Bates College.

After half an hour there were 38 protesters and many students stopping to witness the marching. The protesters were holding signs as they chanted, “Justice not Revenge” and “People are the same color when they bleed.”

Cindy Postma grad a member of the Cornell Forum for Justice and Peace, came out to walk hoping to make a statement about the war. “The US shouldn’t be acting like a vigilante, going out to get the terrorists,” she said. “We’ve been bombing for five or six weeks now and I don’t think Osama bin Ladin is closer to being found. I wonder if this is ever really going to do anything except killing more innocent people.”

She added, “It’s not going to bring back people form the World Trade towers or people who died, I’m absolutely convinced of that.”

Will Parker, an Ithaca community member and Quaker by faith, also participated in the vigil, noting, “I think we’re experiencing an enormous revolution. A lot of people nationwide have been hurt. What I’m interested in doing is talking to people … people have to talk this out. They have to realize what they’re thinking and saying.”

In Parker’s view, the United States is wasting time and money.

“Terrorism isn’t a person, it’s an idea. Killing people doesn’t get rid of an idea, and it doesn’t make anything secure.”

For Parker, the goal of the Sept. 11 events was to defeat the U.S. on an economic level.

“Look at the target. They flew near some nuclear power plants they knew were there; they could have hit them. They didn’t. They hit the World Trade Center. This is an economic thing, and right now the U.S. government is doing everything the terrorists want them to. They’re spending money to the hilt, and it’s just a way to bleed us slowly economically dry,” he said.

Among the passers-by was Gabriel Bould ’02, who spent five years as a member of the U.S. Special Forces in the Marine Corps. He questioned the goals a peace rally at Cornell would accomplish.

“Personally, I think we should rally behind the president. As far as this peace rally goes, I don’t understand. How do you reason with fundamentalism? I don’t necessarily see peace ever being something doable when you’re dealing with radicals,” he said.

Bould said he supports the actions of President Bush, but thinks continual bombing is not the answer. “I don’t think that we should continue the bombings, I think we should use ground troops. I think bombing has it’s use, but it can’t ever eradicate terrorists on the ground,” he noted.

“This peace rally isn’t really doing anything except for angering Cornell students. They just want to walk by Ho Plaza without being interrupted. It’s a small section of the community that wants to do this rallying,” said Drew Greenwood ’04, who was stationed on Ho Plaza raising money for Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (S.P.C.A.) “This peace rally isn’t really doing anything except for angering Cornell students. They just want to walk by Ho Plaza without being interrupted. It’s a small section of the community that wants to do this rallying.”

In addition, Greenwood believes the current U.S. military action is justified.

“We can’t just sit back and allow our cities be attacked and not do anything about it. People that protest for peace like this seem to be totally oblivious to the fact that there was an attack by a foreign nation on U.S. soil. And that basically constitutes war.”

Katie Williams works in the Cornell library systems and is also active in the campus peace movement. “It was best said a long, long time ago by a man named Ghandi. ‘An eye for an eye makes us all blind.’ Maybe it’s time that all the people of the world looked around and said, ‘this isn’t getting us anywhere,'” Williams said simply. “When people in very poor third world countries look around and see how much we have when they can’t feed their families, of course they’re not going to like us. Of course they’re going to see the Trade towers as a symbol of that.”

After the hour of walking and chanting, student members of Peaceful Justice returned to Willard Straight Hall, where they continued a day-long fast in the International Room. To show their support for people in Afghanistan who may be facing starvation during the winter months, members wore black and committed to a day of no food and reflection. Students sat quietly, talking and supporting each other during their fast.

Dana Brown ’02, who became involved with Peaceful Justice soon after Sept. 11. She noted that Peaceful Justice is planning to extend the fast, emulating a group of students at Cornell who, during Vietnam, had a month long fast, with each student fasting for one day of the month.

“My gut reaction as soon as Sept. 11 happened was, ‘Oh God, I hope we don’t do this to anybody else’ … we were all grieving. There was just a deep understanding of the human condition at that point. We all understood loss so well because of what happened, we wanted to make sure that no body else had to understand that,” she said.

Archived article by Signe Pike