At the corner of Pleasant and Maine streets, a group of elderly Brunswick locals stand on Friday afternoons with signs condemning all acts of war—cars drive by and honk showing support for the group’s message.
This passionate, albeit small, congregation represents part of a larger organization known as PeaceWorks, a national organization whose mission is to educate its members and the community about all issues important to citizens of a democracy and encourage non-violent solutions to conflict. The weekly gathering, just one of the many events that PeaceWorks sponsors, has occurred weekly since 9/11 and the subsequent “War on Terror.”
In years following, attendance declined significantly and today scarcely 10 people show up in support each week. However, there is still a dedicated contingency of PeaceWorks members who believe in the mission of these weekly gatherings and carry on the tradition.
Last year, Julio Palencia ’20 was walking downtown one Friday afternoon to take photographs for a class assignment and photographed the PeaceWorks group. When he eventually developed his photographs of the event, Havana Caso-Dosembet ’20 was intrigued by the story of the images and the two began getting involved.
“Obviously they haven’t achieved world peace through Honking for Peace, but I do still think it’s rewarding to be on that corner and show the community that they’re people who care enough to reach out,” Caso-Dosembet said.
Although the original purpose of these weekly gatherings was solely to condemn militarism, it is clear that more than 15 years later these peaceful protests have come to stand for something much more. Rosalee Paul, one of the group’s leaders who took classes at Bowdoin during the 1970’s, spoke about the group’s desire to raise awareness more broadly that violence really only ever breeds more violence.
“This isn’t something Drumpf caused …. This is from whenever Hannibal crossed the alps. This is the patriarchy that we live in and it’s time for learning a more community oriented, earth centered, people centered kind of culture,” Paul said.
Paul said that part of PeaceWork’s new paradigm is focusing on climate change, which Paul argues is directly related to war and military action. Paul noted that the Pentagon has the largest carbon footprint of any governmental organization, so in order to become truly environmentally conscious and bring about the larger changes that we wish to see, we must focus first and foremost on stopping wars.
Paul believes that it is essential for people to stand up for what they believe in and advocate for change. She encouraged Bowdoin students to join the group’s typically elderly participants in future gatherings.
“This is real and alive and happening and it’s all gray-haired people. Come on, let’s get out there!” Paul said.
Editor’s note: Havana Caso-Dosembet ’20 is a member of the Orient Staff.