Iraq War protesters take their first break in seven years

For the first time in seven years, there will be no Saturday morning protests of the Iraq War at the Bayview park-and-ride lot.

“We’re taking a break for the summer,” Linda Morris of Langley said Monday.

“Attendance has been waning. We’ll meet in September and reassess, but I’m not sure the energy will be there,” she said.

Morris, one of the original members, said the loosely-knit group’s protests began in the summer of 2002, months before the start of the war in March 2003.

More than 20 people would regularly gather at the corner of Bayview Road and Highway 525 between 10 and 11 a.m. to wave anti-war signs and call to motorists, receiving a variety of responses in return.

Through the years, during anniversaries of the start of the war, as many as 200 people might show up, Morris said.

She said sign-wavers of all ages turned out originally to campaign against the talk of war. Then others, many with relatives serving in the military, took part through the years as the war progressed.

But attendance at the events has steadily dwindled since the November election, down to as few as only two or three people the past several weeks, Morris said.

“I think people were relieved,” she said of Barack Obama’s election as president. “I think they felt like everything was going to be OK.”

“Since the war appears to be winding down, I think that also has something to do with the lack of interest at this point,” Morris continued.

“But there’s still a clear military presence in Afghanistan, which probably will be problematic,” she added. “And who knows about Iran and other places?”

Morris is a member of Whidbey Peace and Reconciliation Network, an anti-war group that among other things provides information to young people and parents on alternatives to the military.

She was there at the beginning of the park-and-ride protests. She said the Saturday morning group formed on its own without leaders or much organization. She said that while people of all ages have participated, most tend to be “of the gray-haired set.”

“We have more time to spend on it, and more years of seeing the results of misguided military intervention by this country,” Morris said.

She said a core group of people have been regulars through the years, and they’ve become a kind of community. They even throw Christmas parties.

Morris herself has been at the park-and-ride lot more than 90 percent of the Saturdays in the past seven years, she said. She keeps an e-mail list, and tries to keep people informed.

“As I’m fond of saying, it’s my church, my congregation,” she said. “We don’t sing hymns, but we do preach to each other quite a bit.”

Morris said the responses of drivers passing the protesters started out mostly negative, but became more sympathetic as the war dragged on and the death toll mounted. There have been more peace signs and horn honks lately, and fewer suggestive hand gestures.

“Once a guy riding in a car mooned us,” Morris said. “That got a lot of laughs from people.”

She said members of the group will meet in the fall to talk about what to do next. A meeting has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at Mukilteo Coffee Roasters at Whidbey Airpark in Langley.

“It’s been a remarkable group to have sustained itself for so long,” Morris said. “It was a grassroots kind of thing where people kept coming. It will leave a big gap on a Saturday morning.”

But noting that many members have shifted their focus and commitment to United States involvement in Afghanistan, she added: “We may end up revamping our mission and coming back.”

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