The people at Peace Action Maine knew that plenty of people would want to go to Washington, D.C., next weekend for the mammoth peace rally planned for the city on January 18th, so they chartered a couple of buses.
Two wasn't enough. Neither was three. Or four.
On Friday, eight busloads of Mainers will head down, filled with about 400 people. They'll leave Friday night, arrive in the capital for the rally and come right back.
Greg Field, executive director of Peace Action Maine, said Sunday that he is astounded - and thrilled - at the reaction.
"We got such positive response that the first thing that happened was the midcoast people decided to do one on their own, and it turned into two."
Activists in Bangor have two buses, as well. "It's eight at this point, so it's really been snowballing," Field said.
He said support for the rally, and opposition to a war in Iraq, are building.
"People are feeling the need to be active," he said. "People who have not been in the group for years, or have never been in a group at all, are turning out for planning meetings."
Steve Burke, a founder of the new midcoast peace and justice group, sees it the same way.
"We have our two buses full and we have a waiting list of 16 people, so we may be looking at a possibility of a third, 11th-hour bus to accommodate just the people from the midcoast," he said.
"I have to attribute it to current events. People are really opposed to Bush's push for war," Burke said. "I think over time, as the drumbeat continues, that just kind of creates an emergency atmosphere that people feel they have to be on the streets in D.C. - that this is our last chance to derail the mad rush to war, and people want to put their bodies out there."
That does mean coughing up some cash - the midcoast group charges $75 per person for the trip, and the Portland group is charging $65. But Burke and Field said there's been a surprise with the money, as well.
"Some people who can't go have written a check for a seat and said, 'Here's a seat on the bus. Give it to someone who needs it,' " Field said.
The same thing happened to Burke. "People have been really generous," he said.
Burke said the Washington rally and another in San Francisco the same day will show the president, Congress, the nation and the world that many Americans do not want a war.
"We want people in the United States to know that there are a lot of people . . . opposed to war," he said.
The entire Cartwright family, for instance.
All four Cartwrights will leave their home in Nobleboro for their trip, said Steve Cartwright, who will be joined by his wife, Kathy, their 16-year-old daughter, Chelsea, and their 18-year-old son, Joel, who is a freshman at Bowdoin College.
"You can write a letter to the editor, you can call and leave a message for your senator and for your congressman, and I've done these things," Steve Cartwright said. "You can send e-mails and whatever, but is that really enough? And I guess I want to be counted this way, too."
For more information, call Peace Action Maine at 207-772-0680 or check its Web site, www.peaceactionme.org.
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