September 23, 2020

Peace vigil marks five years

BANGOR – Fifteen people lined the street outside the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building on Harlow Street Tuesday night to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Peace Vigil.

Since 2001, people participating in the Peace Vigil have been standing on the sidewalk across from the federal building every Tuesday from 5 to 6 p.m. protesting the Iraq war in rain, sun, snow and sleet.

Many signs were held up at the peaceful protest including some that said “Good jobs and health care, not warfare!” and “Has the war made us safer?” The sign that seemed to provoke many of the passing cars said: “Honk for Peace.” A bicyclist even rode past honking an imaginary horn.

“The reaction was a little more mixed when we started,” said Doug Allen of Bangor’s Peace and Justice Center. “It has really changed. Now the responses are about 90 percent positive.”

Noel Walsh of Bangor was heard in between the honking of passing vehicles, strumming his acoustic guitar and singing a song he wrote titled “Desert.”

Mary Horrigan of Bangor was at the vigil holding a sign that displayed the names of the Maine soldiers who have died in combat as of this past June. One of the soldiers was her son, Master Sgt. Robert Horrigan. She chooses to participate in the vigil in memory of him. He was killed a week before his tour of duty was over and three months before he would have been released from the army.

Ilze Petersons of Bangor’s Peace and Justice Center held a sign that displayed the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq, 2,774, compared to the number of Iraqi civilians killed, 655,000.

Though she won’t admit it, Petersons has played a large role in the organization of the Tuesday night vigil since the start. She was one of 11 people arrested at a recent protest at U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s offices.

“It’s a shame that the war has gone on as long as it has,” she said.

The Peace Vigil isn’t just limited to Bangor. About a dozen other towns participate on different days of the week, including Presque Isle, Belfast and Houlton.

“When we started, our message was ‘Don’t go in,'” said Al Larson of Vets for Peace. “Now it’s ‘get out.'”

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