WNPJ yard signs are available!

 

WNPJ has new signs! We will have them available up in Custer, June 24-26 at the MREA Renewable Energy Fair at the WNPJ table.

They're available in Madison, too - contact yardsigns@wnpj.org to learn how to get yours. Suggested $10 donation.

THANKS to the PC Foundation for their grant to WNPJ for the purchase of War is NOT the Answer signs from the union-shop Budget Signs & Specialties.

 

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 A Short History of WNPJ's Yard Signs for Peace

In August of 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait resulting in UN sanctions upon Iraq along with a January 15, 1991 deadline for withdrawal.

In response, a group of concerned people of faith (Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Quakers, and Unitarians) began gathering to oppose war against Iraq. They called themselves the Inter-Religious Voice for Peace (IRVP) and held teach-ins at Edgewood College, demonstrations in various locations and vigils—the largest being a peace prayer vigil on January 15th at St. John’s Lutheran Church in downtown Madison with over 1000 people in attendance between the hours of 5 and 10 pm. People were always urged to contact their elected officials to call for a negotiated settlement rather than war.

 

To fund its work its work IRVP created the Yard Signs for Peace project. The yard signs were like those used during political campaigns. The first sign was a red and white one with two lines of text: “Take Time for Peace, No Mid East War.” After the US started the aerial bombing of Iraq on January 17, 1991, the signs were changed to read: “It’s Time for Peace, Stop the War.” Hundreds, if not thousands, of them were sold for $5 each. The pick-up place for signs was the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Monona where Fr. Jim Murphy was the priest.

Another yard sign was created by an ad hoc group of young people living on the east side of Madison. They created a red, white, and blue yard sign that said “United for Peace” with an American flag morphing into a peace dove. After the ceasefire was declared by the U.S. on February 28, 1991 the sale of yard signs declined. IRVP changed its name to the Inter-Religious Voice for Peace and Justice and worked to end the continued bombing in the no fly zones of Iraq and the drastic economic sanctions against Iraq that ultimately resulted in the deaths of half a million children. Work was also begun to focus on issues of racism and militarism.

On February 10, 1993 representatives from IRVPJ and the newly formed Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice met with recently elected Senator Russ Feingold “to introduce ourselves and to set up a line of communication.” However, when key leaders Pauline Lippman and Rico Gutstein moved out of state and there was the usual return to everyday life that occurs when our country is no longer at war the result was that IRVPJ disbanded. The left over yard signs were stored at the home of Marian Fredal.

A parallel effort to oppose the Gulf War was begun on February 23, 1991 with a hearing in the State Capitol called by Rep. Frank Boyle and organized by his staffer, Nan Cheney. (Ironically that was the same day that the ground assault against Iraq began.) From this gathering of 350 people from all over the state the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice was formed. For a longer history of WNPJ see http://www.wnpj.org/pdf/history07.pdf

The Yard Signs for Peace project was renewed in 2002 as a response to the drumbeat for war another war in Iraq. Bonnie Block, who had been a member of IRVP and was now Chair of WNPJ, tracked down the stored “It’s Time for Peace” yard signs and took them to Baraboo for the first Fighting Bob Fest in September of that year. Close to one hundred signs were sold and this provided the seed money to revive this project by allowing individuals to publically campaign for peace.

In addition, the group that sold the “United for Peace” signs contacted WNPJ and said they had ordered more yard signs but couldn’t afford to pay for them and asked if WNPJ would like to take over the production and sale of that red, while and blue sign as well. WNPJ did so.

As it looked more and more likely that the US would invade Iraq, a third yard sign was designed and began distribution on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in January of 2003. It was a blue and white sign with a peace dove and King’s words from his “A Time to Break Silence” speech against the Vietnam War; “War is Not the Answer.” Bumper stickers of the same kind were also produced and sold for one dollar. During the months immediately before and after the beginning of the 2nd Iraq War on March 20, 2003, about 10,000 of these yard signs were sold all over Wisconsin.

WNPJ member organizations such as Lakeshore Peacemakers in Manitowoc, Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, Congregation of St. Agnes in Fond du Lac, the La Crosse Interfaith Justice and Peace Network, and Peace Action in Milwaukee distributed the signs. In addition, individuals in Omro, Platteville, Janesville, Madison, Milwaukee, West Bend, Sauk Prairie and elsewhere sold signs to folks they knew. Some signs were distributed in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota. One was even shipped to Germany to a a family member of someone serving on a military base there.

As the war turned into the extended U.S. occupation of Iraq, sales of these Yard Signs for Peace dwindled though another 1,000 were produced as replacement signs for those who continued to have them in their front yards or windows and for people seeing them for the first time at events where WNPJ had an information table.

Beginning in 2009, the yard signs had a new twist linking war and our country’s desire for oil. This was a result of WNPJ expanding its focus to energy and environment issues and holding an annual Pancakes for Peace breakfast at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Custer. The new signs have the same blue and white colors and the phrase “War is Not the Answer” on one side. The other side says “The Answer is Blowing on the Wind” with a windmill graphic or “The Answer Rises Every Morning” with a graphic of the sun. These new signs are seen in front yards through out Madison and other parts of the state.

 

It’s hard to evaluate the impact of the twenty-year “Yard Signs for Peace” project. Certainly it gave individuals the ability to publicly express their opinion against the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan and it helped provide funding for at least two peace organizations.

It may have also helped to bring people together so that during the height of the Iraq War there were weekly peace vigils in sixty communities all over the state. See WNPJ’s on-going Peace and Justice Calendar at www.wnpj.org for current vigils.

It might have also influenced the success of the spring 2006 effort led by WNPJ that had “Bring Our Troops Home” referendums on the ballot in 32 Wisconsin communities (it won in 24 of them) and the 2009 “Bring the Guard Home” initiative to pass legislation that would enact legal safeguards to protect the members of the Wisconsin National Guard from unlawful deployments.

Whatever else the project accomplished may never be known, but it is one citizen effort to reach the long term goal to abolish war. 

Written by Bonnie Block, 2010.