Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation 

Working for peace, social justice and principled nonviolence since 1976

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The Olympia FOR Holds Two Peace Vigils Every Week:

- Every Wednesday 12 Noon to 1 PM at Sylvester Park, Legion and Capitol Way, downtown Olympia
- Every Friday 4:30 to 6 PM at Percival Landing, 4th and Water SW, downtown Olympia

You are invited!

Sylvester Park Vigil

Photo by Berd Whitlock

New Vigil Signs Carry Your Messages

In another step toward increasing the “fellowship” in our name, the Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation is producing new signs for our peace vigils with messages recommended by our members. 

This spring we invited our people to suggest messages for vigil signs.  Then we sent the list out by e-mail and invited you to vote for your favorites.  The results are in, and we made new signs with the 20 messages that received the most votes.  Come and use these new signs:

§ Act from love, not fear

§ Bring our troops home

§ Build a peace economy

§ Choose peace

§ Create a peaceful foreign policy

§ Create nonviolent solutions

§ Drive less

§ Food, not bombs

§ Want peace? Work for justice.

§ Invest in peace, not war

§ U.S. empire is not sustainable

§ Voting is not enough

§ Militarism is choking our democracy

§ Olympia F.O.R. weekly peace vigil

§ Peace is patriotic

§ Peace is the best troop support

§ Remember Rachel Corrie

§ Strength through peace

§ Truth is the first casualty of war

§ Let's stop killing people

Thanks to Berd Whitlock for generating the idea for this and for managing the process!  Glen made the signs.

For information and photos regarding our vigils, please see page 7 and www.olympiafor.org/vigils.htm


Why vigil?

The Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation is committed to building a strong, broad-based grassroots movement for peace, social justice, and nonviolence.  Doing this requires:

We achieve these by holding public peace vigils twice a week (Wednesdays and Fridays).  We are friendly and hold signs that stimulate thought.  We enjoy friendly conversations with passersby.

Although occasionally someone refers to these events as “protests,” they really are vigils.  The roots of the word “protest” actually imply something positive.  (“Pro” means “forth,” and “test” means to “affirm” and comes from the same root as “testify,” so etymologically a “protest” is a positive statement of the values we affirm.)  Politicians and mainstream media have misinformed the public to think of a “protest” as something negative.

Our weekly public peace events really are “vigils.”  A “vigil” is an alert presence during a specific period of time.  We gather for one hour on Wednesdays and 1½ hours on Fridays to be alert and attentive as we publicly testify for peace, social justice and nonviolence.  We literally “stand up for peace.”  We hold signs proclaiming our values for all the world to see.

In the course of doing this, we remind the pedestrians and motorists who pass by that war is the problem, not the solution, and we invite everyone to pursue higher values of inclusiveness and reconciliation.  We provide signs offering a variety of messages, but none are rude or abrasive.  (See article below.)

Often passersby express their support for our vigils’ messages.  They appreciate our willingness to publicly support peace, and our vigils reinforce their desire for peace.

Some people stop to talk with us.  Most of those who stop to talk are supportive, and some have mixed feelings.  Even if someone disagrees with us we are still warm and friendly, and often we can find some common ground.

People who stop to talk are happy to connect with our friendly band of peace activists, and some choose to join the Olympia FOR’s mailing list so they can receive our newsletters and e-mails.

We vigil every week, all year around, regardless of weather, and regardless of political climate or other events.  Some people come every time or nearly every time, and some come intermittently.  Some are able to participate for the full length of a vigil, and other people come late or leave early as their schedules allow.  We appreciate every person’s participation for whatever time they can share.

Occasionally one of our Wednesday or Friday vigils coincides with a special event (e.g., an anniversary of a current war’s starting date, the day when a peace walk comes through Olympia, or the April 15 Income Tax Day), and more people join us for an expanded vigil with a special focus.

Every Wednesday from 12 noon to 1 pm in Sylvester Park

Grandpa against the war Talk with strangers Wednesday Vigil

A few decades ago some of the Olympia FOR’s members suggested that we hold peace vigils on a regular basis.  We chose Wednesday noon hours (the middle of the day in the middle of the week) at a prominent downtown location, the NW corner of Sylvester Park at the corner of Legion & Capitol Way in downtown Olympia.  We started on March 5, 1980, and we have maintained our presence there every Wednesday for more than 30 years.  

Every Friday from 4:30 to 6:00 pm at Percival Landing

Choose Peace - Percival Landing VigilAll People

In November 1998 two local Quakers started a vigil on W. 4th Avenue to call attention to the economic sanctions that the U.S. had imposed upon Iraq nearly a decade before.

During the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. had deliberately targeted hospitals, water treatment plants, sewage treatment plants, and other crucial infrastructure, and bombed them to smithereens.  After the Gulf War the U.S. imposed economic sanctions to prevent Iraq from buying the building materials Iraq needed for rebuilding.  The U.S. even prevented Iraq from buying medicine, bedsheets, textbooks, and other humanitarian supplies.  This caused hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children to die from water-borne diseases.  The U.S. was fully aware that it was using these “biological weapons of mass destruction” to kill Iraqi children as a way of putting pressure on Saddam Hussein.

We maintained our Friday vigil with this focus until September 11, 2001, when our vigil broadened its topics to include related aspects of U.S. foreign policy.  This expanded range of peace, social justice and nonviolence has continued.

In early 2008 the new Artesian Rumble Arkestra formed and came out to perform jazz in support of our Friday peace vigil.  Their beautiful and energetic music attracts passersby and adds to the positive atmosphere we enjoy.

If you have questions, please contact Glen Anderson at (360) 491-9093 glen@olympiafor.org

Vigils Support the Peace Movement Potential and Strategies

by Glen Anderson

December 2001 Updated  March 2010

The peace movement has more growth potential than people assume. We could make even more progress by adapting strategies and approaches that are already working. The Fellowship of Reconciliation chapter in Olympia, Washington, can offer examples.

Those who participate in the Olympia FOR’s peace vigils (every Wednesday noon hour and every Friday afternoon rush hour) enjoy a lot of support from people in the cars driving past. Even in December 2001 when I wrote this article, there was much more support for peace than the government wants us to know, and it has grown tremendously ever since.

The Olympia FOR’s weekly vigils create opportunities for hundreds of passersby to honk or wave their support. Perhaps this is their first opportunity to "come out of the closet" as peace supporters. We enjoy giving them this first nudge, and we also create more opportunities to join a growing movement.

That is precisely part of our strategy. The government and news media proclaim that all Americans support our government’s wars, but the truth is that many millions oppose these wars al-together and many more millions are seriously troubled by some aspects of the wars abroad and/or the war against civil liberties at home. The peace movement’s strategic roles and tasks include (but are not limited to):

Helping people know they are not alone in opposing war

Expressing the peace message in ways that new or undecided people can understand and appreciate

Giving people courage and support in learning more and in deepening their convictions

Inspiring and motivating people to actions (suit-able for each individual – perhaps small steps for beginners and larger steps when appropriate)

I often wear a button that says, "When the people lead, eventually the leaders will follow." Thomas Jefferson and others founded this nation on the premise that the people are in charge – that we create and own the government.

The American Left, the American Right, and the American Middle-of-the-Road all agree that we want more democracy and less arrogance from our federal government. We should be able to use traditional American values to mobilize people to stop and reverse the government’s assaults on our freedom and civil liberties that began during the Bush/Cheney regime with a Republican Congress and that are continuing with less publicity under Obama and a Democratic Congress.

Likewise, in almost everyone’s inner core is an innate concern for fairness and human rights. (Even little kids object when something is unfair or hurting another person.) Almost everyone wants to live in a world with less violence and more security. The confusion comes when the government pursues policies that it claims will stop other people’s violence and make us secure. Millions of Americans have a gut feel that violence is the problem (not the solution) and that causing turmoil and anger among people in other countries will end up making us less secure here in the U.S.

Such contradictions can be upsetting for people who are not used to "thinking outside the box." If people find it too hard to take the leap toward a politics of peace, they retreat to the comfort of the "conventional wisdom" that militarism makes us secure and free. The peace movement needs to help people make the transition to nonviolent consciousness.

We can help people make this transition by removing barriers that the peace movement sometimes unwittingly sets up and by lowering the threshold so it will be easier to cross over to our side. Barriers can be either explicit or implicit.

Occasionally peace demonstrations are negated by angry attitudes and behaviors that implicitly contradict the explicit message. Who would want to join a group of grumpy people? In contrast, the Olympia FOR’s vigils are warm, friendly and engaging. Our friendly demeanor helps to at-tract support for our message and spontaneous participation from passersby. People stop to talk with us. Many agree, but we are friendly even with those who disagree.

We want to give even those who disagree an interesting and pleasant experience. We don’t expect to convert them to pacifism, but we do want to give them a fresh way to think about some is-sue, and we want them to see peace folks as human beings who are approachable, well informed, reasonable, and respectful of people with different opinions. We almost always succeed to some extent.

Especially since September 11 I have deliberately devising vigil signs with messages that will cause passersby to find themselves agreeing with us and resonating in positive ways. Certainly a sign that says "Stop the bombing" would be clear and explicit, but that message would not engage other people – indeed, it conveys a subtle vibe that is rather bossy and blaming. In contrast, our sign saying "Imagine nonviolent solutions" is open, expansive and engaging. It invites people to be creative – to be part of the solution.

Likewise, instead of a sign denouncing the US’s foreign policy as racist, we have signs saying "All races are one human family" and "Make friends across races, nationalities, religions, ..." Instead of accusing people of being racist, our signs call forth their better natures and invite them to take simples but practical steps.

The result is a tremendous number of positive responses from passersby.We challenge people in positive ways and create opportunities for people to find themselves agreeing with peace activists.

So if they find themselves agreeing with us, how could they simultaneously allow the government to persist in its violent and inhumane policies? We hope to create some internal struggling over these inconsistencies (some "cognitive dissonance" in psychological jargon), because we have faith that if people open themselves to a peace perspective and wrestle with their con-sciences, they will find the truth and choose peaceful solutions instead of violent ones.

We receive support from people of all ages, races and appearances – and in all kinds of vehicles. Some of the drivers and passengers who show their support have flags on their cars. Some of the people waving or giving a "thumbs-up" are probably doing their very first overt action for peace. We create opportunities for people to take these first steps and then to do more. One of our new vigilers after September 11 made a sign saying, "Speak out for justice and peace, even if your voice trembles."

Many passersby tell us they deeply appreciate our presence and our persistence. Our two one-hour vigils every week – and our explicit and implicit messages – along with the activities of other local peace groups – have been establishing peace as a perfectly legitimate and mainstream in Olympia. We are indeed creating "a culture of peace and nonviolence," as the U.N. Decade urges.


Robert Whitlock has shared a video with you on YouTube: Peace Vigil at Percival Landing Friday 14 September 2012, Olympia WA — People gathered at Percival Landing to speak out against violence and aggression, and to speak up for peace and harmony. This is a very friendly and non-partisan vigil in the spirit of nonviolence. We provide plenty of signs for people to use. The Artesian Rumble Arkestra comes out at 5:00 and plays in support of our vigil. They’ve been doing that for several years now.

40th Annual Holiday Peace Vigil December 22 from 12 noon to 1 p.m. (more information)

For information contact Glen Anderson at (360) 491-9093 or glen@olympiafor.org or visit the Olympia FOR’s website, www.olympiafor.org


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