As one of the first days of spring brought sunlight and blue skies to the HWS campus, one group of students seated in front of the Scandling Center was doing more than just appreciating the warm sun and mild breeze. For most of Wednesday, March 26, the students were engaged in a peaceful protest of the war in Iraq, reminiscent of the San Francisco and Central Park legendary “Be-Ins” in 1967.
“It's been five years since we've been in Iraq, and last week the 4,000th U.S. soldier died,” said Jenna LaVita '08, who organized the event as part of her coursework as the Colleges' first Peace Studies minor. “We wanted to do something different than the normal protest. This was modeled after the Vietnam movements in the 1960s.”
LaVita, along with other students, spent the day raising awareness of the rising toll of suffering and death — both domestic and abroad — wrought by this war. Their main objective was to gather signatures on a petition — in the form of a letter to the American people by the people — denouncing the value of power wrested through violence, and asking that people consider giving peace a chance. By the mid-afternoon, more than 200 had signed it.
“One guy who joined the Marines signed the petition. Construction workers were coming down off the roof to sign the petition,” said Andrew Siskind ’08, who spent the day at the site helping to spread the word of peace. The Human Be-In, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in January 1967, came about two years after the first Teach-In against U.S. policy in Southeast Asia, in March 1965 at the University of Michigan.
The be-in’s setup at HWS this week included a blank tapestry and paint, which was used to draw out a reaction to the war. By afternoon, the tapestry featured striking statistics (“4000!”) and serene sketches including a mermaid, stretching across one corner. Organizers also handed out yellow yarn bracelets to wear as a reminder. Throughout the day, passersbys could stop to sign the petition, paint a picture, or take a bracelet to wear as a symbol of their opposition to the war.
“We've received a lot of positive feedback,” said LaVita. “We're trying to remind people that the war is still going on, because a lot of people forget. We've been socialized not to notice it.”