The Sakonnet Peace Alliance was “formed” after an informal gathering on the Commons in January, 2003 in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. Alarmed at the relentless march toward war by the Bush administration, three friends (Phoebe Cook, the Reverend Dan Burke and Betty Torphy) invited sympathetic friends to join them on the Little Compton Commons on the Sunday of the Martin Luther King holiday weekend to protest the oncoming war.
What we intended as a one time event became the founding moment of the Sakonnet Peace Alliance. In the Sundays following, the group grew, changed and continued to gather. After the Iraq War started in March of that year, individuals kept coming each week, despite often negative reactions from drivers who passed through the Commons on Sunday morning Some of our early participants dropped out, while others continued to come to join the protest on Sunday mornings. Since that first Martin Luther King weekend , there have been only two occasions when there was not a vigil – both were winter Sundays when heavy snowfall prohibited participants to get out of their driveways.
In addition to the weekly vigil on the Commons, the Sakonnet Peace Alliance sponsors a silent meditation for peace every Wednesday morning at 7:30 at St. Andrew’s by the Sea.
In the spring of 2003, Pam Church designed our current logo. To make ourselves a recognizable group within the community, bumper stickers, buttons , hats and tee shirts with the logo have been distributed among the group and throughout the community. David and Maureen Doern have generously donated much of the cost of these projects and have donated their profits to the fund raising effort of the Sakonnet Peace Alliance.
Participating in the annual Congregational Church Fair has allowed us to have conversations with individuals who both supported and opposed our efforts. We have circulated petitions against the Iraq War, torture, against using the No Child Left Behind law as a tool for military recruitment.
Movies with an anti-war theme have been sponsored by the Sakonnet Peace Alliance and shown at the Little Compton Community Center and offered free to the general public.
For the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, the Sakonnet Peace Alliance has sponsored an inter-faith service in honor of Doctor King around the theme of nonviolence and peace held at St. Andrew’s By the Sea and planned with the support of its rector, Reverend Greg Prior.
And since Memorial Day of 2008, members, their friends and family have carried banners listing the American who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in the local parade The banners were designed by Katherine Sears, Bronlyn Jones and Robert Bauer and sewn by Barbara Pelletier. Almost 40 individuals have participated in the signing of the names of the dead. Unfortunately, it is an ongoing project.
In November of 2006, the Sakonnet Peace Alliance sponsored a presentation by Stephen Oleskey, a member of the group, on his work with six detainees captured in Bosnia and held without charges in the detention facility at Guantanamo. The presentation which met with local opposition – opposition specifically that the church was being used for political and unpatriotic purposes- was made to a capacity audience in the church’s basement. (Permission was denied to hold the event in the church sanctuary.)
Mr. Oleskey’s case, Boumedienne v Bush, became the landmark habeas corpus case that was successfully argued before the U.S Supreme Court.