Grass roots antiwar activism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
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 
on Iraq."

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 
solicit signatures.

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," 
Gutiérrez said.

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."

Maybe. ...


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