This is one in a series of stories about Eugene/Springfield and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars produced by students in Dan Morrison's NewsLab class at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications. Morrison embedded with Marines in Helmand province in August 2010.
EUGENE, Ore. - Rain patters down on a line of women, all clad in various shades of black.
They stand dead silent as a steady stream of cars rush past on Pearl and Seventh streets downtown.
They respond with a wave to blaring horns - or a disinterested sigh at passing rebukes.
Women In Black’s Eugene chapter started in March 2003 as the United States prepared for the possibility of war in Iraq. The group stands in silent vigil every Monday from 5 to 5:30 p.m. at the northwest corner of Eugene City Hall.
“It’s a persistent statement,” said Peg Morton, a lead organizer of the group. “There may not be many of us, but there are a few of us, and we are always there.”
The movement originated in Israel in 1988 when groups of women, in concert with the Palestinian intifada, started holding vigils to oppose the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. They targeted busy road junctions and other highly visible locations. Altogether, more than 30 vigil groups formed throughout Israel.
According to Women In Black’s site, it now holds vigils in at least 16 countries throughout Asia, Europe, North America, South America and Australia.
Only one such group appears in Oregon, consisting of between four and six people most weeks. Some members hold “PEACE” flags, an English version of the “PACE” flag used in Italy and worldwide since the 1960s.
“We would like to have more people at the vigils,” Morton said about the overall peace movement. “We would like to have more letters, more marches and more rallies. There needs to be a groundswell.”
Women In Black is part of a weekly line-up of vigils held around Seventh and Pearl streets. It hosts Drums of Peace on Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m., Sitting for Peace Tuesday mornings at 8:15 a.m., a Wednesday vigil from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. The Eugene Public Library also hosts a Saturday vigil from noon to 1 p.m.
“We stand for peace, quietly, once a week. Wear black, and do join us,” Morton says to newcomers. “We’d love to have you join us.”