Weekend vigil planned in the name of peace

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By ERIN MAYES

Peace advocates are once again gathering, and hope they will be seen all over the planet at 7 p.m. Sunday.

This time the demonstration is in the form of a silent candlelight vigil.

Jim Toner, a Columbia College professor, has notified fellow peace advocates that the local vigil will take place at the Court-house Square in Sonora.

Whether the millions who showed up around the world for the peace protests on Feb. 15 and 16 will show up again for the candlelight vigil against a possible war with Iraq remains to be seen. The international group United for Peace is once again behind the upcoming event.

"One of the conditions I had to agree to (with United for Peace) is that this is not a rally," Toner said. "It's in the spirit of being silent. We agreed not to respond to any hecklers that would or would not be there.

"It's a peaceful, nonviolent expression, rain or shine."

Toner helped organize the local peace march Feb. 15, which more than 1,000 people attended. He said he was surprised at the turnout. Sonora is a traditionally Republican-voting town, Toner said, but the issue of going to war causes people to cross political boundaries.

"I don't feel like I'm in the minority," he said. "We had over 1,200 people compared to the 450 or so that were at the pro-war march ... And people who were on our march, some were staunch Republicans.

"As far as the attitude towards war, I think that conscience is winning out."

War is a touchy subject for people, Toner said, particularly because so many have lost loved ones during conflicts. Despite those losses and the many veterans in the community, plenty of people continue to back peace, he said.

"I've been very surprised at the support in the county," Toner said. "I would have guessed, oh, maybe 100 people would be pro-peace and 5,000 would be pro-war ... The comment I heard again and again is, 'I can't believe this is Sonora.'"

Contact Erin Mayes at emayes@uniondemocrat.com .

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