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Publication Date: Friday, March 07, 2003

Citizens revive peace group Citizens revive peace group (March 07, 2003)

Quite since Gulf War, Mountain View Voices for Peace renews action

By Candice Shih

After more than a decade of dormancy, talk of a new war has led to the resurrection of Mountain View Voices for Peace.

Following in the footsteps of its earlier incarnation which railed against the Persian Gulf War, the new group of peace activists has a similar goal: to stop the proposed war in Iraq. Led by Lenny Siegel, a politically active resident who has made a career of environmental advocacy, Voices for Peace is planning local rallies, vigils and a newspaper ad with signatures of those opposed to a war on Iraq.

The birth of activism

For the peace group, the a January anti-war rally was not for naught; at the time, Mountain View residents who might not have otherwise met agreed that the U.S. should not initiate a war. At the rally they picketed, but they also joined e-mail lists and donated money.

The product of that effort was a meeting last Thursday of about 35 people.

"I think we all know why we're here," said Siegel, chair of the new group. "I find it hard to watch a war on TV and not do anything about it."

Bob Kirby took his 17-year-old daughter Samantha to the meeting. He remembers being politically active during the Vietnam War and often discusses current events at home. "It has probably rubbed off in the last 17 years," he said.

Probably so. Samantha, who has joined Hands On, a political consciousness club at Mountain View High School, said this is the first year she has gotten involved in activism.

Voices for Peace also draws from across the political spectrum; Jack Cormode, a member, is a registered Republican.

"I think there is a lot of reservation and apprehension among people. ... I'm not active on other issues. The main motivation for me is that I'm a veteran," said Cormode.

Together, the peace activists have planned regular meetings and participation in upcoming marches. They are also going to stage a vigil at the corner of Castro Street and El Camino Real from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on March 7.

"I made this nice sign that I want to get a lot of wear out of," said Bob Kirby. It has "no war" on one side and "no blood for oil" on the other.

And member Fred Duperrault's effort to get the city council to oppose the war is still alive. On March 18, Voices for Peace plans to march before the city council meeting to show support for a resolution of opposition to the war.

Pressuring the council

Last week, Duperrault presented the council with a petition of more than 500 signatures he collected, all condemning the U.S.-led attack on Iraq. The council was not allowed to act on the matter by law -- it wasn't on last week's meeting agenda -- but it is being scheduled for the March 18 council meeting.

Although the council may only decide whether to take a position, rather than what that position will be, it is clear that Voices for Peace is urging it to oppose a war.

"If they want to go with their constituents, they should vote for it," said resident Alison Hicks. Siegel, however, is pessimistic. "I don't think they're going to (pass a resolution), but it's great theater."

During the last council meeting, Council members Matt Neely and Greg Perry expressed interest in passing a resolution. But Council member Rosemary Stasek is more hesitant. "I will probably end up abstaining from voting," she said.

She is reluctant to act on a resolution because the impending war on Iraq is not a subject matter she has a particularly vast amount of knowledge on.

"I am not in a position to get the kind of information that I normally have when I make decisions as a council member," said Stasek. "Donald Rumsfeld ain't returning my calls. I am not in (Rep.) Anna Eshoo's shoes."

A history of peace

For Lenny Siegel, this peace effort is not new. His activism began during the Vietnam War in which he stood next to the engineering department at Stanford University and handed out fliers against the war.

His reaction to the Gulf War was much the same. In fact, he belonged to the first group of Mountain View Voices for Peace. "I still have one box of candles left over from the Persian Gulf War," Siegel offered when the current group began planning Friday's vigil.

Fighting a war is possibly easier than it used to be because the Internet and cell phones allow peace activists to act more quickly, he said. On the down side, those without Internet access tend to be forgotten. To combat that challenge, MVVP is planning to distribute fliers in both English and Spanish.

Pat Shields, a co-organizer of the January rally, is confident that people in Mountain View will be supportive. "I would say, without doing any polling, that the majority of people are against it . . . I was expecting counterprotest at the rally and there was none," he said.

The difficulty will be fighting the media, which is trying to marginalize groups that are opposed to the war, he added.

"We are a large, diverse group," said Mike Fischetti. "We need to show we're mainstream."

For more information about Mountain View Voices for Peace, e-mail or call 969-1545.

E-mail Candice Shih at


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