New Upstate Peace Groups:
Countering the March to War

John Fitzsimmons

Several new peace groups have recently formed in Upstate New York. They reflect growing concern about the Bush Administration’s desire to invade Iraq and its policy of pre-emptive and preventive attacks on other nations.

Cayuga County
The Cayuga Coalition for Peace is the first peace group in Cayuga County since the war in Vietnam. Its purpose is to keep the option of peaceful resolution of conflict at the highest level of public debate. Planned actions include a vigil the night the war starts (if it does), a fund raiser for Voices in the Wilderness along with local food pantries, another series of public forums, and organizing to send many people to Washington on January 18.
Contact: John Fitzsimmons, (315) 255-4362,

Finger Lakes for Peace is the new peace organization in Geneva. It organized two anti-war marches in October and filled two buses for the October 26 anti-war march in Washington. A member of the Geneva City Council drafted and presented a resolution against the war to the Council, which was unfortunately defeated. However, the initiative generated many letters to the editor and much spirited conversation. For January it is planning a war/peace debate and organizing buses to go to Washington.
Contact: Stephanie Kutzke, (585) 526-6036,

North Country
Alternatives to War is the very active peace group organized shortly after 9/11/01 in the Canton-Potsdam area. It is a group in Northern New York advocating a sensible and non-violent approach to resolving national and international conflicts. One of its main goals is to “widen the circle of dissent” by reaching out to people beyond the peace community and make it “acceptable” for them to disagree with the President on attacking Iraq.
It brought Scott Ritter in October, who spoke at the four area campuses. It gathered 700 signatures on an anti-war petition, 400 of whom helped sponsor a full-page ad in a local newspaper. It produces a twice a month newsletter called Peace Links (to subscribe send an email to
A current project is circulating an “Open Letter to President Bush from US Military Veterans in Northern New York.” It is looking for 100 veterans to sign the letter and have their names published in another full-page ad in a local paper.
Contact: Phil Harnden, (315) 347-3778,

A fledgling peace group is becoming established at SUNY-Oswego, sparked by attendance at the Syracuse Peace Rally on 10/26. Pledges to resist war on Iraq have been circulating and have stimulated vigorous dialogue. Students and faculty have been meeting weekly to plan projects; one is to convince WRVO to put Democracy Now on its broadcast schedule.
Contact: Maureen Curtin, (315) 312-4221,

In response to the threat of a war in Iraq, the Mohawk Valley Peace Coalition (MVPC) has been formed in the Utica area. Its goal is to challenge the inevitability of violent conflict in all its forms by:
1. increasing awareness of the consequences of and alternatives to violence
2. promoting an understanding of the motivation for war
3. offering education for creative conflict resolution
The MVPC held its first public forum, “Waging Peace: A Teach-In on the War at Home” on December 7. The next project, scheduled for February 8, is a regional peace fair to be held at Utica College.
Contact: Tracy Taylor, (315) 269-4583,

Onondaga Community College
The Student Political Awareness Group was recently organized at OCC. Its mission it to educate and raise political awareness on campus. Its project this semester is working toward the closing of the School of the Americas. It is promoting attendance at the Thursday night anti-war planning meetings of the Syracuse Peace Council. The group is in the midst of deciding upon a project for the next semester; opposition to a war against Iraq is one possibility.
Contact: Dan Freshman, (315) 876-2658,

Syracuse University
The Student Peace Action Network (SPAN) at Syracuse University is affiliated with national Peace Action, and has branches on many universities and colleges. Its goal is to promote the peaceful solution to international conflicts through education and activities on campus. This fall it held a well attended forum on Iraq, including speakers on both sides of the issue. The group held a number of protests on the campus quadrangle.
Plans for next semester include continuing protests against a war on Iraq, traveling to Washington on 1/18, and speakers against the war. SPAN has joined a Progressive Coalition on campus. The feeling among SPAN members is that the peace movement is gaining momentum at Syracuse University.
Contact: Emily Moeller, (315) 443-6098,,

John is a peace activist from Auburn and is a member of the newly formed Cayuga Coalition for Peace.