Give a damn

It’s dark outside. It’s very cold—below freezing. So why are 30 people standing outside of the Bruce R. Thompson United States Courthouse and Federal Building on this frigid Monday evening?

The answer: It’s a good ol’ fashioned leftist anti-war protest. God bless ’em, the Reno Anti-War Coalition and a group called Patriots for Peace and Justice have been holding these weekly peace vigils every Monday evening at 5:30, no matter what the weather brings.

And make no mistake, the weather is frigid. The gloveless are miserable; one participant, Lee Dazey, jokes that the regulars at the vigil believe that the steps here in front of the federal building are the coldest spot in Reno.

But it doesn’t matter for these die-hards. They have a message to send: Not all Americans want war with Iraq, or any other country.

Those who live in southern Nevada wouldn’t imagine that there are a number of Nevadans who feel this way. The anti-war movement in Las Vegas is practically non-existent. But the north is nearly a hotbed for the movement, and weekly anti-war protests have been going on for nearly 14 months now.

As the vigil begins, 19 protesters are present. It’s dark, and the lights from the federal building and other nearby buildings provide the only illumination, outside of 11 fake candles that sit in front of the sound system—what appears to be a karaoke machine.

One person holds a U.S. flag. Another holds a flag with an image of our little planet on it, a picture from space. Two folks hold up a banner with a peace sign. For a change, the winds in Reno are calm; the flags wave little.

After everyone is given a sheet of paper tucked in a plastic holder, the group reads outloud the nonviolence guidelines that, along with a few other things, are on the paper.

“We will harbor no anger but suffer the anger of those who disagree. We will refrain from insults and swearing. We will carry no weapons.” Those and eight other rules are read.

After that, the vigil takes on a sort of open-mic format. During the course of the half-hour vigil, about five will speak.

One of the speakers is Jeffery White. On this night, he speaks of war with Iraq as though it were inevitable.

“We’re going to be engaging in something completely immoral, and millions of Americans are going to lose their unemployment benefits to pay for this massacre,” he says. “There’s no direct link between the Iraqi government and what happened on Sept. 11.”

By 5:40, some 31 people are here. Another speaker or two, and Lee Dazey goes up.

“I’ve never sung this, so it might not work out,” she says of her adapted version of “Silent Night”.

It works out.

Silent Night, holy night

Wars are done

We put down our guns

No blood for oil

was the peace warriors’ cry.

We pulled back our troops

so all flags could fly.

We buried our guns

where the Trade towers stood

as a symbol of brotherhood.

“I think it represents the hopes of everyone here,” she says of the song. “Peace is such a strong message this holiday season.”

A strong message, indeed. It also sends another message: Some Nevadans actually do give a damn.