Grass roots antiwar activism
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 6 10:26:56 MST 2003
NY Daily News, Feb. 6, 2003
A citizen-led effort against war with Iraq
by Albor Ruiz
'We, the undersigned, are people of goodwill. We value and support the
United States of America and its Constitution. We defend the Bill of
Rights and by our rights, defined therein, declare that: We Oppose War
This is the petition, addressed to President Bush, that Angela Gutiérrez
- mother, housewife, New Yorker and concerned citizen - is circulating.
She does not belong to any anti-war movement or peace organization.
"I believe in the power of one person," says Gutiérrez, a short, plump
woman of 49 with confident eyes and a serene manner.
"You don't have to belong to agroup to help things change. You can be an
activist in your everyday life.
"A preemptive strike on Iraq will exacerbate anti-American feelings and
provoke terrorists. Nonmilitary solutions should be explored.
"War must be the last resort," she said.
Gutiérrez, who was born in Peru and came to New York when she was 11, is
just one example among many of why those who say anti-war activists are
just leftist radicals are full of hot air.
This is a woman who works as a secretary and, until recently, her
involvement in social causes was limited to collecting toys for
disadvantaged children at Christmas.
But being the mother of a 20-year-old woman, she was worried about
violence, guns - and the war looming on the horizon.
Gutiérrez realized that for her, remaining aloof and uninvolved was not
an option anymore.
"Then I went to see 'Bowling for Columbine' [Michael Moore's documentary
about guns and violence in America], and it made a profound impact on
me," Gutiérrez said. "I left the theater motivated to act."
A few days later, on Jan. 17 to be exact, she got her first signature.
From that day on, armed with a box of blank petitions, she began to
approach people on the bus, on the streets and outside of theaters, and
asked them to sign. More than 600 have done so. She got two close
friends and neighbors - mothers and housewives, like her - to help her
Seven churches - in upper Manhattan and Harlem - circulated the petitions.
Gutiérrez credits Mary Gratereaux, director of the Mediation Center at
the Washington Heights-Inwood Coalition; Gitesha Hernández, an artist
and close friend, and the Rev. Dana Farmer with helping to collect
"But they have also been a source of inspiration and strength,"
She is happy about how well people have received the petition.
"I am surprised by how many responded positively," Gutiérrez said.
"It is as if they had just been waiting to be asked."
She also joined the gigantic Jan. 18 anti-war protest in Washington.
"I was impressed by the diversity," Gutiérrez said.
"There were people of all ages, races and nationalities."
Protest and patriotism
The experience made her even more determined.
"We are acting like bullies," she said.
"The people who live around Iraq disagree with Bush. It would not be
patriotic for us asAmericans not to raise our voices."
She and her friends will send the first batch of signed petitions to the
White House and Congress this week.
"But we will keep collecting signatures," Gutiérrez said.
"Who knows - maybe because this is an initiative of common people and
not of an organization it will move the President to pay attention."
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