More than 1,500 lit candles conveyed the solemn mood of the anti-war crowd that aligned themselves along Main Street last night.
Walking through the crowd, Ann Arbor Area for Peace Committee staffer Phillis Engelbert said the community gathered to show the mixture of trepidation, disappointment and anger it feels knowing the United States is going to war with Iraq when the rest of the world does not agree.
“And if we go to war tomorrow, the voices of the anti-war community will be calling for a quick end and limitations on the type of weapons used,” Engelbert said. “Peace doesn’t just come from an absence of war but it’s about creating a society that builds community without the distraction of war.”
Similar vigils were held worldwide after Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other religious leaders spent the week urging communities to host candlelight vigils Sunday night. Detroit witnessed its own vigil with a crowd of about 2,000 gathered at a church as religious leaders called a war with Iraq “an affront to God and a crime against humanity.”
Last night, Ann Arbor resident Don Pelz, who participated in the human peace sign demonstration earlier this month, stood quietly, holding a candle.
“It’s impressive to see the candles out,” Pelz said. “It shows the heart-felt desire for peace in a form of nonviolent, peaceful expression – Like a prayer.”
Some Ann Arbor residents said they felt it was their last chance to express anti-war sentiment after President Bush said yesterday that the United States will be ready to act with or without the United Nations’ approval. Today, the U.N. will be voting on whether to endorse the use of force in Iraq for disarmament.
“Everyone is just standing here knowing the inevitable situation, regardless of what happens tomorrow at the U.N.,” said Ann Arbor resident Jill Zick. “I’m not a member of any peace group. I’m not a leftover activist from the sixties, but I’m protesting.”
Three Ann Arbor Pioneer High School students standing curbside said they wished there was more attendance of younger people at the vigil.
“It’s going to be (our age group) that’s going to be fighting in Iraq,” Pioneer High School student Katie McFadden said. “Most everyone at school is against the war. We think war in the name of peace isn’t peace.”
Vigil volunteer Natalie Holbrook, who sold ‘No War’ yard signs at the vigil, said she does not meet many pro-war people.
“Even people who maybe don’t have such an active anti-war community are still willing to express themselves,” Holbrook said.