July 1, 2013


Peace group is still going strong

Activists have stood on Main St. last 5 years to protest wars

PeaceJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Karla Alwes of Locke displays the peace sign Saturday to traffic at the intersection of Port Watson and Main streets during a weekly anti-war protest.

Staff Reporter

As horns beeped and people waved and yelled their support, six peace activists stood on the corner of Main and Port Watson streets Saturday, holding their “honk for peace” signs and doing their part to spread a message of peace.
The group of activists marked its fifth anniversary June 22 and have no plans of stopping, said participants. Saturday there was a handful of sign holders and a steady scattering of supportive beeps. The six present Saturday are the core group of activists who come and stand on the corner every Saturday, weather permitting. Only heavy rains or the coldest of days deter them.
One of the activists, Cortland resident David Norby said the group, known as the Cortland Community for Peace, started long ago with demonstrations over the Vietnam War. It reorganized about five years ago after a memorial for local peace activist Bill Griffin, trying to send the message that peace is possible. The group used to stand outside the post office but moved about three years ago to the intersection to reach more traffic.
Norby said the message is not political and the group tries to stay away from political affiliations, hoping only to spread the word that peace is a reasonable solution.
“Men make war and men can stop war. It is a man-made thing and it is unnecessary and too much of it is for profit, greed and oil,” Norby said. He stood on the corner of the parking lot by Macho Burger with Dryden resident Norm Trigoboff.
Norby said that when tanks, guns and missiles are not being fired, profit goes down and that monetary profit is an unacceptable reason for massacres.
So each Saturday Norby stands on the corner holding a sign like “honk for peace,” hoping to make a difference.
“When somebody honks their horn they are actively and physically endorsing peace. They are becoming peace activists,” he said.
Locke resident Karla Alwes stood across the street holding a sign that read “endless war?” and said wars today, like the war in Afghanistan, can be forgotten.
“We are never made to acknowledge them. The Vietnam War was brought into our living rooms on our TV screens, we saw dead bodies and the people being massacred,” said Alwes.
She said that type of footage is not shown anymore because it would make people angry, so wars continue and unless you read about it you do not know about it.
Holding her sign each Saturday for five years, Alwes hopes she has sparked some awareness of war and helped to foster a more peaceful attitude, one honk at a time.
Paul Yaman, holding a “veterans for peace” sign, said he comes every week to try to raise awareness that there are other ways of solving problems besides war.
“War is the worst way of accomplishing a task,” said Yaman. “A unified earth, trying to resolve conflict, it makes no sense to do it in a warlike fashion.”The activists got a hearty response from drivers Saturday, averaging about 250 beeps an hour, they estimated. People from all walks of life beeped, waved or called out support, whether motorcyclists, truckers, older people, younger people or families.
But some made their opposition to the peace activists known. One pickup driver with a “Nobama” bumper sticker, slowed and pointedly raised his middle finger to the gathering before driving on.
Alwes and Yaman said they are used to hostility and differences of opinion and are not deterred by it.
“That’s why we’re in a war, if everybody felt like we did then we wouldn’t be at war. It’s an exchange of opinion,” Alwes said.
Alwes said the group often wonders what drivers who do not beep are thinking, whether beeping for peace is a step outside their comfort zone or whether they find the group to be unpatriotic, something Alwes said many Americans believe peace activists to be.
Alwes said the group has no unrealistic ideas about world peace, saying World War I was supposed to be the war to end all wars. She thinks America has become a more war-like nation but she is hopeful that people are sick of violence, saying that support for the activists has grown over the years. She notices that after tragic events like the Newtown school shooting last December more people are likely to beep for peace because of outrage over violence.
“Just because you think it won’t ever happen, you can’t give up your own beliefs in it,” Alwes said of peace.
Yaman said children respond with enthusiasm to the peaceful messages, as if peace is a message they naturally connect with.


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