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Mainers Organize 'Village Green' Protests
Published on Thursday, March 15, 2007 by the Bangor Daily News (Maine)
Mainers Organize 'Village Green' Protests
by Rich Hewitt
 

Ron Greenberg stood quietly beside the hi-tech oven, meticulously tracking roasting times of the coffee beans he will ship wholesale from Benbow’s Coffee Roaster in Bar Harbor.


Ron Greenberg of Bar Harbor, left, talks with volunteers Susan Murphy, center, and Suzanne FitzGerald Friday morning about their organization of Bar Harbor's commemoration of the 4th anniversary of the Iraq war at his coffee roasting business Benbow's. Greenberg initiated the idea of Every Village Maine which has encouraged 100 towns in the state to host their own peace rallies and have church bells rung as names of soldiers killed in the war are read in commemoration Saturday. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)
As the firing ended, he took time Wednesday to explain some of the intricacies of the roasted bean to neophyte coffee drinkers, his voice echoing its Brooklyn, N.Y., roots despite 30 years of living on Mount Desert Island.

As Greenberg spoke of coffee and the health food store he and his wife have operated in Bar Harbor since moving to Maine, his friendly eyes peered through and over his glasses, the focal point of an animated and engaging face, bewhiskered and topped with longish and graying freewheeling hair.

It’s an unassuming face and voice which, nonetheless, have helped to forge a united voice in Maine for opponents of the war in Iraq.

Greenberg, 60, has been the driving force behind the From Every Village Green campaign that will commemorate the fourth anniversary of the start of that war on Saturday with home-grown activities planned in more than 100 communities throughout Maine.

Moreover, the campaign has attracted attention from war protesters from around the nation who hope to adapt the Maine-grown strategy to their states.

Greenberg was drawn to active protest of the Iraq war by what he said was the lack of responsiveness from Maine’s two U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Letters expressing his concerns about the war drew no response from the two legislators, he said.

"I got no response at all. I was just ignored. That’s what got me so upset," he said. "I got the sense that they were just rolling their eyes. I felt insulted as a citizen."

Frustration led him to Snowe’s office in Bangor last summer where he and 10 others were arrested, which, in turn, led to a Bangor protest that drew several thousand people from all over Maine.

"They were frustrated and angry, and happy to have an outlet," he said.

It was during that protest that Greenberg thought about people unable to make the trip to Bangor.

He came up with the Every Village Green concept.

"I think the reason [the senators] felt they could ignore us was that they believed this was isolated; they don’t think of it as representing their constituency. It was an oddity," he said. "But what if 100 towns came out to their own rally? The senators would be able to see that this is not isolated."

There are considerably more than 100 towns planning activities for Saturday, Greenberg said.

Although Greenberg and other organizers are receiving help from Peace Action Maine in Portland and the Peace & Justice Center in Bangor, each activity is a grass-roots effort and varies widely from town to town. Those efforts are not being coordinated by hard-core war protesters, he said, but by everyday people.

"This is not so much a political rally as it is a social reaction," he said. "People are fed up with the war. This is attracting people to express that."

Scores of Mainers will participate in peace events across the state this weekend to mark the U.S. invasion of Iraq four years ago.

In Bangor, thousands of activists are expected to join together for a rally by the Paul Bunyan statue on Main Street and to form a human peace sign behind the statue about 1 p.m. Saturday.

"The main point is to show solidarity with people in the state and groups around the country," said Veterans for Peace member Al Larson at a Bangor news conference Wednesday.

Larson said it would take about 200 people to form the peace sign.

After the hillside peace sign is formed, participants will line up in a "chain" along Main Street.

"This is an opportunity for all of us from the grass-roots level to make our voices heard," said Ilze Petersons, program coordinator at the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine.

Although the campaign calls for an end to the war, Greenberg said, it is also an effort to honor those who have died during the conflict.

"There have been several thousand American soldiers who have died, and more than 10,000 who have been injured dramatically, plus hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis who have been killed," he said. "We have to honor those people."

Working with the Maine Council of Churches, Every Village Green has arranged for churches in towns throughout the state to ring their church bells to commemorate the American lives that have been lost.

Greenberg said he hopes the actions in all of these Maine towns will convince Sens. Snowe and Collins to respond to their constituents and to meet with them even though their views on ending the war may differ. If it doesn’t, he said, there will be more protests.

"If they don’t respond, then we’ll do it again," he said, "and we’ll do it as often as it takes."

The organizers have set up a Web site www.everyvillage-me.us. It lists many of the planned activities.

BDN writer Aaron Smith contributed to this report.

© 2007 Copyright Bangor Daily News

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