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Peace Movement Grows, Conference Planned

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"It just seems that people in Richmond have so many skills that can be used to educate and activate a lot of people," organizer Jen Lawhorne says.

Lawhorne, a member of Food Not Bombs, says the idea was sparked by activist Rania Masri, whose November speech at Virginia Commonwealth University stirred her audience. Masri said she would return if she could be part of a larger event. So Food Not Bombs members got to work.

"There's a lot of momentum pushing the movement forward in this country and abroad so we must take the time to equip people with the knowledge and skills to confront the government's blatant abuse of its power," Lawhorne wrote in a recent e-mail asking for help in planning the event.

Even in Richmond, a city not historically known as a hotbed of activism, peace groups are seeing a surge in activity and membership. The November march drew 300 to 750 protesters (depending on who's counting).

Food Not Bombs, which typically sees 15 to 20 people at its weekly meetings held at VCU's Pace Center, had 115 new people show up last week, Lawhorne says. The Richmond chapter of the international group Women in Black has seen the numbers rise at its Saturday afternoon peace marches on the Boulevard, says member Camille Harris.

The Richmond Peace Coalition, a partnership of several groups, is working to place anti-war billboards in the area. The first billboard company the coalition approached turned them down, saying it was "too controversial," says member John Gallini, but now they believe they've found one that will post their messages. The first proposed design says "War on Iraq? Not in MY name," on a bright red background.

Constant effort is necessary to spread the anti-war message, Lawhorne says. "This isn't something you do just every once in a while. It's kind of like a daily revolution." —

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