Last Friday about noon, the corner of Oak Park Avenue and South Boulevard sounded like the middle of Manhattan. There weren’t any New York taxi drivers, but the honkers probably shared something with the Big Apple’s cabbies: They’re fed up with the direction the country is heading.
In front of the Oak Park Avenue Green Line station, protesters held up signs that read “Honk for Peace” and “Honk to Impeach.” From the sounds that afternoon, it seems a lot of Oak Parkers agree with them.
Behind the “Honk” signs, roughly 25 members of the local chapter of MoveOn.org held up a blank check from America’s taxpayers for “Iraq’s Unwinnable Civil War” with the question, “How much more for next year?”
Julie Norman of Forest Park, spokeswoman for the local MoveOn group, fired up the protesters by rattling off the costs of the war: “$1.1 billion from our district alone!” she said. That’s enough, she calculated, to buy health care coverage for 400,000, or to pay 18,000 new teachers.
Richard Henzel, the man with the “Honk” signs, shouted in approval: “Bush should be sent to jail! Law and order!” The war, he explained, is “murderous, racist, fascist.”
One protester, Ed Nelson, listened to the honks and looked around at the crowd and said, “I used to say to myself that Oak Park’s liberalism was largely phony, but it’s becoming more real.”
The MoveOn chapter in Oak Park was founded in early 2007, said protester Vic Myers. The group’s priorities are ending the war in Iraq and finding a solution to global warming. “There’s no consensus in MoveOn about impeachment,” he said.
MoveOn is a liberal national political organization. According to its website, www.MoveOn.org, it has 3.3 million members. MoveOn runs a non-profit organization, MoveOn.org Civic Action, and an officially registered political action committee, MoveOn.org Political Action.
The group was founded in 1998 when it launched an online petition to encourage the country to “move on” after the Monica Lewinsky scandal and subsequent impeachment of President Bill Clinton. After Sept. 11, the group turned its attention to geopolitics, pushing for a “restrained and multi-lateral response to the attacks.”
MoveOn is planning another event, a “Stand Up in September Vigil” scheduled for 6 p.m., Aug. 28, in Scoville Park.
The MoveOn cohort is not the only Oak Park group holding protests of the Iraq War, however.
Donald Ball, who held up a sign protesting British Petroleum’s dumping of lead into Lake Michigan and another urging passers-by to impeach Bush, said he and Henzel protest every Thursday morning from 7:30 to 8:30 at the intersection of Austin Boulevard and the Eisenhower Expressway.
Another group, a chapter of the national organization World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime, meets every Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the corner of Harlem and Lake, then moves to the Buzz Café for a meeting from 7 to 9 p.m.
They are sponsoring a larger event, a follow-up to a town meeting on impeachment, held July 7, to discuss a plan of action. The event will take place at Unity Temple from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 6. Clips from the DVD “Voices for Impeachment,” featuring Cindy Sheehan, John Nichols, and Daniel Ellsberg, will be shown.
A coalition of peace groups will host another event at Unity Temple two nights later. The “Concert for Peace” will begin at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 8. Suggested donations are $10 for adults, $5 for students, and $25 for a family. Proceeds will benefit the Oak Park Coalition for Truth and Justice, Near West Citizens for Peace and Justice, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine, and Veterans for Peace/Iraq Veterans Against the War.