Friday night Vigils at the Plaza for over 5 years

One of the most interesting parts of presenting this blog and the accompanying calendar is getting to know the folks behind the events.

The Peace and Justice folks added a calendar listing for their Friday night vigils at the Sonoma Plaza. It said that they have been holding the vigils for 267 weeks. When I did the math, I realized that is over five years! I had to find out more about it.

Here is my interview with Dave Henderson:
Who had the idea for the vigil?
Virginia Merkel and Sharon Liu, two weeks after the 9/11 attack, just felt that someone should be publically witnessing concerning this horrific event. They stood, I believe, simply in solidarity with the victims. That witness simply attracted others, and it took off from there.

Who participates?
Anyone at all! This is NOT an exclusively “Peace & Justice group event.” In
other words, it is a free-form opportunity for any member of the Sonoma
Valley community to show up and witness, silently or with a sign, on any
issue that, they believe, pertains to “peace and justice.” We of the P&J
form the core, but not all witnessers, even those who show up on a more or
less regular basis, belong to our group. We do not keep track of who shows
up or joins us. The numbers range from a core of 8 (the minimum) to a more
usual 15, but we’ve peaked at about 30 for certain issues.

While the P&J folk may have a specific issue on occasion, there will likely
be a multiplicity of signs on other issues, too; this can tend to “dilute”
the impact of a specific theme, true, but we avoid attempting to impose our
views on others or achieve regimentation. As far as themes go, opposition to
the Iraq war and occupation has been constant, especially our demand to
Support the troops & bring them home, but other main themes have involved a
demand for more just and humane immigration policies, protest at
Administration violations of constitutional rights, support for habeas
, support for Ghandi’s principles, demand for universal health care in
California, etc.

What is the reaction from the community?
Ah! This has been most interesting! We obviously have strong local support,
as you can HEAR from all the honking of passing motorists, constantly. We
get a full hour of this, every Friday. Many people have stopped to tell us
of their appreciation that we’re “out there for them,” which is very
heartening. In fact, the realization that we represent a lot of community
members is one of the things that keeps us in good spirits.
We get lots of tourist snapping pictures of us, possibly to show people back
home “those strange characters in California.” But the real reason tourists,
especially those from other countries, stop, is to compliment us and express
appreciation. We have come to realize from these encounters, in fact, that
we are giving a healthier view of America to citizens of other countries.
Of course, we do get criticism, too, which we generally enjoy. We especially
liked one eloquent letter, published earlier this year in the Index Tribune,
that started “It’s a shame that a tourist entering Sonoma (…) has to be
greeted by these dirt-head, Vietnam-era throwbacks (and ) flower-power
degenerates.” But the abusive shouts and raised middle fingers are actually
very few.

For more information, attend their weekly meetings:

Sonoma Valley Peace & Justice meets every Wednesday
at the United Methodist Church 109 Patten
from 5:30 to 7 PM – All Peace/Justice Lovers welcome
Call Audrey 480-6973 for info

Or show up at the Friday night vigil, 5:00 pm at the Sonoma Plaza on the sidewalk in front of City Hall. This week (12/8/06) will be vigil number 272 .

You don’t have to agree with their politics to admire their consistency and commitment. Another wonderful part of Sonoma life.


1 Comment

  1. February 15, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    […] for Peace and Justice at that Sonoma Plaza (see this link for an interview about this vigil which has been held weekly for over 5 […]

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