Cornell’s organization for Peaceful Justice has been active throughout the semester in protesting the use of violence in responding to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. From marches to rallies, from days of fasting to camp-outs, the group has organized efforts around campus.
Sept. 20 was a day that protesters for peaceful justice around the country shared. Over 140 colleges and universities across the U.S. organized demonstrations in favor of peaceful justice over military action. The events, which received national media attention, all included various combinations of rallies, vigils, marches and teach-ins, and all took place at noon on every campus that participated.
Ho Plaza was the site of Cornell’s rally, which also involved a peace march of approximately 125 students throughout campus, according to Dana Brown ’02, one of the event organizers. Community members spoke to an estimated one hundred people who participated in the activities — some on their way to class, some skipping class to be part of the rally despite the rain.
Brown also noted that members of both the activist and non-activist communities were present, sitting in Ho Plaza, as another group sold flowers to benefit the relief effort.
Peaceful Justice demonstrations have continued throughout the semester and have included rallies and a month long rotating fast, which has also been observed by peace organizations at other universities.
Cindy Postma grad, a member of the Cornell Forum for Justice and Peace, took part in a Nov. 11 event to make a statement about the war. “The US shouldn’t be acting like a vigilante, going out to get the terrorists,” she 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.
On that day, the members of the group continued a day-long fast 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 reflection without food.
Many other groups have rallied across campus with various messages. The College Republicans held a rally on Sept. 19 to show their support for the President’s decision to attack Afghanistan and to promote other students to “defend America,” as the rally was called.
“The world has been changed forever. The U.S. is the greatest nation on earth — we have to show that we will not tolerate … the acts of these savages,” said College Republican director Sam Merksamer ’02.
Michael Schmidt ’04, vice chair of membership for the College Republicans, noted that similar rallies for the support of military defense were being organized by College Republicans across the country.
Joe Mamounas ’04, another member of the group, said he believes the sentiment expressed is strong all over the United States.
“I think for the most part many people are here with us in the country,” he said.
“I think we all have the same idea, everyone wants peace,” he said, adding that the rally emphasized “peace through strength.”
Student republicans at Cornell also sponsored the visit of David Horowitz, who spoke on campus about the role of activism at colleges and universities around the country.
Leftist anti-war protesters, particularly at universities, should rethink their position on the war.
“We’ve been attacked. Every single one of you is a target,” he said. “The anti-war movement will divide the homefront and stab the country in the back.”
The war has brought Americans together, Horowitz said.
“I hope people can appreciate what they have, because they can lose it so quickly,” he said.”We have lost a lot of our freedoms already, [but] this will remain the land of the free so long as it’s the home of the brave,” he said.
— with combined reports from: Stephanie Hankin, Rachel Einschlag, Beth Herskovits, Shannon Brescher and Signe Pike
Archived article by Alison Thomas