MONTPELIER -- Busloads of Vermonters will join activists from across the country this weekend in Washington, D.C., for what organizers are calling "three massive days of action" against the Iraq war. But Deb Van Dyke won't be with them. The Waitsfield nurse practitioner can't leave this weekend, so she's planning a march in Montpelier to help Vermonters speak out closer to home.
Van Dyke, who has traveled the globe with the aid group Doctors Without Borders, feels a need to register her opposition, especially now. She says Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, galvanized the peace movement with her vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. "It just feels like the energy is picking up," Van Dyke says. "You know how sometimes you get a feeling, a buzz?"
A recent CBS News/New York Times poll offers a more quantitative reading of the national mood: It reports that fully 59 percent of American adults disapprove of "the way George Bush is handling the situation with Iraq." When asked if the U.S. should leave Iraq as soon as possible or stay as long as it takes, 52 percent chose departure ASAP.
In the email newsletters she receives from a group called PeaceVermont, Van Dyke noticed there weren't any Vermont actions scheduled for the weekend. "All the usual suspects," she notes, "are going to be in Washington." So she decided to organize one herself. Within two weeks, she and 10 volunteers had put together a short program of speakers and singers. They designed an ad and placed it in local newspapers, paying for it with Van Dyke's credit card.
The march begins at 10 a.m. this Saturday at City Hall in Montpelier, and at 10:30 moves to the Statehouse lawn for a rally. Sponsoring the event are PeaceVermont, the American Friends Service Committee, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and Burlington's Peace and Justice Center -- though Van Dyke points out that her crew is unaffiliated with those organizations. Volunteer Marge Keough, also of Waitsfield, calls the group's members "just regular people."
Van Dyke says she's hoping people who don't normally attend marches will turn out for this one. And if some of them are motivated by anger that so many National Guard troops are in Iraq instead of responding to Hurricane Katrina, that's OK, too. "When you see people around you, people in wheelchairs, pushing baby carriages, you just realize that you're not alone," Van Dyke says. "It's very powerful."