An article appearing on Peter Pelland's local newspaper about
his participation in the rally in Rome on September 24

'It's a human obligation' - Local activist involved at Rome protest


WILLIAMSBURG - When local activist Peter Pelland learned that he was going to be in Italy celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary during last month's peace demonstration, he immediately began looking for ways to ensure he could still be involved.

I had to be a part of it - even from afar, said Pelland. 'It's a human obligation.'

Pelland emailed the Rome branch of United for Peace and Justice*, a U.S.-based coalition of over 1300 local and national groups who oppose the war in Iraq. Officials there invited him to speak at the Rome demonstration. (*Correction: Although we have similar goals as United for Peace and Justice, we are not formally a branch of this national organization.)

So Pelland and his wife Barbara Pelland canceled a planned tour of the city and Pelland spent the morning in a hammock at their bed and breakfast thinking about what he wanted to say. 'It was quite an honor,' he said.

Later that evening, Pelland addressed over 250 U.S. residents and Italians. He told them that there was no broad public support in the U.S. for either the American invasion of Iraq or the continuing occupation and resultant deaths.

He also called upon Americans to take action against the war.

'Let us as Americans pledge to go forward to call upon our government to return to its senses, and to end a foreign policy which is based upon lies and a domestic policy which is based upon corporate profits,' Pelland told demonstrators in his speech. 'Let us pledge to do everything possible to end the Republican control of a Congress which endorses military actions based upon lies.'

Pelland said that his comments were well-received at what was the first anti-war event in Italy sponsored by U.S. citizens. Participants were calling on passersby to honk their horns. At times, said Pelland, the blaring was so loud his voice was drowned out.

Pelland's commitment to peace and justice is long-standing. He cites as influences Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy - men who paid for their moral vision with their lives. They saw injustice and responded with action, regardless of the consequences.

One of their lessons, said Pelland is that awareness brings with it responsibility.

'Even with the way that their lives so tragically ended, I don't think they would have changed a thing they'd done,' he said. 'You can either do it or figure out how to live with yourself knowing that you're living a lie.'

Political dishonesty is a theme that occurs often in conversation with Pelland. He castigates men and women in public office who place profit or ability to be elected over the truth. Both local and national leaders, he said, have a special obligation to be forthcoming with their constituents.

'The public is getting more and more desensitized to everything,' he said. 'If a lie is told enough times, people will begin to believe it. I can't subscribe to that. I just have to speak out.'

Notwithstanding the presence of a large, coordinated international peace movement, Pelland admits that these are 'discouraging times.' But for a man who spent a year working on George McGovern's presidential bid, disappointment is part of the path.

'I love Voices in the Wilderness,' said Pelland, pointing to the local activist Frances Crowe as a hero whose total commitment to her ideals eschews either convenience or comfort.

Pelland, a Web site developer, has maintained close ties with the Democratic party although he points out that his commitment to issues precludes voting a party line.

'I am only doing what I can with the limited amount of time I have available,' he said. 'We do what we can do, that's all.'

Reprinted with permission from the Daily Hampshire Gazette

U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice - Rome, Italy