Fifteen Years of Anti-War Protest

John Makey (sitting) protests war every Saturday on the corner of Ballinger Way and Bothell Way. He’s been coming since 2002.

An anti-war sign hangs by two straps from a man’s shoulders as he paces along the street corner, offering pamphlets. A cluster of other protesters stand and sit, chatting with each other, holding banners, and maneuvering around sidewalk signs.

“What you’re seeing is what we do every Saturday,” protester Glen Milner said.

Their group, Lake Forest Park for Peace, meets inside Third Place Books from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Saturday and then protests on the corner of Ballinger Way and Bothell Way until 12 p.m.

Lake Forest Park for Peace started in 2002 when the Seattle-based anti-war group Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War, SNOW, organized the Puget Sound area into community groups to try and stop U.S. involvement in Iraq.

“This area was seen to be unlikely to succeed [at attracting participation],” Milner said. But the area turned out to draw large groups of protesters, and still maintains some of them. “Last weekend we actually celebrated our 15 year anniversary.”

Few other SNOW community groups continue their political action, and none as consistently as Lake Forest Park. The scant dozen members of Lake Forest Park for Peace is also a sharp decline from the hundreds of protesters who originally flooded the street corner back in 2002.

“There was a group formed by basically KVI radio, it’s a conservative talk radio host, that organized counter demonstrations,” protester Rodney Brunelle said. “So that got a little ugly at times.”

Milner also remembers the huge protest groups and the tension between people with conflicting views.

“It was like nonviolence training on the spot,” Milner said.

Now the Lake Forest Park protests are quieter, but are still occasionally joined by other groups.

“Often times, we have Buddhists with us, who will chant… they come from a temple on Bainbridge Island,” Milner said. One of their chants is written in calligraphy on a peace pole that Milner and others installed five years ago.

“It was a several year project to get [the peace pole] in,” Milner said. “We had this peace pole made and we met with the city and we met with these different committees… they’d all say… ‘This is beautiful, go see so-and-so,’… they’d say ‘Go see the mall, see if they want it.’ No one wanted it.” Eventually, Milner ran into the Lake Forest Park mayor in a parking lot.

“Mayor Dave Hutchinson said ‘Hey, about that peace pole,’ and I said ‘what?’ and he said ‘just put it in.’ And we did.”

Alongside the Buddhist chant, the peace pole reads, “May peace prevail on Earth” in three languages: English, Spanish, and Arabic.

However, the Bothell Way corner isn’t always polite.

“We’d see [people’s] one-fingered salute and that kind of stuff, but there’s not that much of it anymore,” protester Colleen McGuire-Arima said.

One sign taped to a crosswalk pole reads: “The Pentagon, America’s sucking chest wound.”

“Someone tore that sign up just a couple months ago, we saw him over there ripping it up, so Rodney took a bunch of tape and taped it back together and put it back,” Milner said.

This wasn’t protester Rodney Brunelle’s only sign that got torn down.

“I used to have one… that said ‘War is Terrorism’ and I left it up on the fence and somebody ripped it all to shreds. That was a long time ago,” Brunelle said.

Brunelle’s signs, and his commitment to Lake Forest Park for Peace, are influenced by his time in the Vietnam war.

“[In] training we were taught about treating a sucking chest wound,” Brunelle said. “The injury’s into the lungs and so your lung is going hu-hu-hu, sucking air to try to survive, and basically you’re dying, it’s sucking the life out of you. So the Pentagon is a sucking chest wound, it’s killing the United States, it’s killing the world.”

A couple of Lake Forest Park for Peace’s other members are also veterans.

“You notice the Veterans for Peace,” protester John Makey said, pointing at his shirt logo. “In January of 1952, I was in Korea, and we went out on a fire mission to observe and explain to non-artillery officers how to adjust artillery fire…we couldn’t find any targets, so we brought our guns in on a Korean village.”

Makey remembers the village burning with white phosphorus and variable time fuze, a kind of artillery shell that explodes about 100 feet in the air.

“We murdered some of those villagers, just straight murdered. And you know, I didn’t give a damn,” Makey said. “It wasn’t till much afterward that I began to realize what we did, and that’s a personal reason why I’m out here, against war.”

Makey has three other guiding principles that motivate him to sit for an hour each Saturday and oppose war.

“One: I desire, I want to avoid nuclear war,” Makey said. “The second is: I want my beloved country not to fall into an authoritarian dictatorship. And thirdly: I want some degree of equity, socially and economically, for everyone, not just the wealthy and politically established.”

Other members of Lake Forest Park for Peace come out to the street corner each Saturday for different reasons.

“I’m Catholic, and war is the antithesis of what Christ means,” Brunelle said.

He also values the community he’s formed with his fellow activists.

“Belonging to a group like this you develop some friendships and the camaraderie of the thing is, well, I like it,” Brunelle said. “I’m engaged in society, I’m retired…so it keeps me out in the world and not secluded in front of the TV. Of course, I don’t watch TV anyway.”

With 15 years already behind them, Lake Forest Park for Peace plans to continue their weekly activism into the future.

“We were always accused of being anti-Bush, you know, but… we never stopped with Obama…the militaries have never stopped with Obama,” Milner said. He doesn’t plan to stop now either.

“I feel personally that if I’m the last person here holding this sign, it’s not a loss. It’s important to keep the flame, you know keep the light, shine your light.”

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