Peace Fair hopes to get people talking

Organizers ask "What does peace look like?"

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By BILL DWYER

On the fourth anniversary of the last day America was able to consider itself truly at peace, a consortium of groups will take over Scoville Park for a first ever Peace Fair. The Oak Park Coalition for Truth and Justice (OPCTJ) will sponsor the event September 10 from noon until 5 p.m.

For some, being at peace means more than merely not being at war at any given moment. To that end, Peace Fair organizer Kevin McDermott said last Wednesday that more than 40 local and Chicago area groups have signed on to have booths or tables at the event. Representatives from those organizations will be available throughout the day to discuss their views with fair goers and to answer questions about their organizations.

McDermott said that he and others have been discussing the idea of a fair "on and off for the last couple years." It was only in the past five months, however, that the talk turned serious.

"We put together some ideas, sent them around via e-mail, and the response was good," he said.

"Originally we figured 25 (organizations) would mean success," said McDermott.

Intended as a peaceful response to violence in Iraq, the event is termed a "market place of ideas and entertainment." An open air town hall meeting is planned, something that organizers hope will be one of the highlights of the day.

OPCTJ will join with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Chicagoans Against War and Injustice (CAWI), along with some two dozen other local groups. Among those groups are organizations from DuPage County and Chicago, as well as the Oak Park chapter of Move On.org.

McDermott stressed that, while many involved with the Peace Fair do not support the Bush administration's policies, organizers want this Saturday's event to be about more than just a protest against the Iraq war.

As the headline on their promotional poster on their web site reads, "What does peace look like?"

"It's very easy for people to look at us and say, 'They're against the war,'" McDermott said. "What we want people to ask is 'What are you for?' What is your vision of peace?"

"Peace is more than the absence of war," McDermott said. Saying he wants to foster an environment in which people can begin to envision the future they want to help create, McDermott asked, "What does the peaceful society look like, that we're supposedly looking to create?"

McDermott also said he hopes to attract individuals who wouldn't normally come out to such an event. To that end, the Peace Fair won't be another rally, with hundreds of people standing around watching various speakers give their views.

"We're not focusing on speakers, unlike a rally," he said. "We're really trying to get people together to talk." One person who will be addressing the crowd, however, is Pat Vogel, one of the military mothers from Cindy Sheehan's Camp Casey outside of the Bush compound in Texas. Vogel will speak sometime between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. More importantly, McDermott said, she will be available to speak with people individually.

Taken together, the primary intent of Saturday's activities, McDermott said, is an effort to shift the consciousness of individuals and the community, if not the country.

"It's really a way to focus attention on moving forward," he said.

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