Oregon vigil against Afghan war marks 8th year

By Kim Murphy
Los Angeles Times / October 19, 2009

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CORVALLIS, Ore. - It started the way things do in a small town. It was the autumn of 2001, New York’s World Trade Center had been attacked, there were reports that the US military was planning to invade Afghanistan, and local people were talking about what should be done.

Then some of the professors at Oregon State University organized seminars to explain who the players were.

“They talked about the histories of Iraq and Afghanistan and Iran. They brought in experts on Muslim fundamentalism, and they made it quite clear there was not a clear connection between Islam and terrorism,’’ said Mike Beilstein, a retired chemist and member of the City Council.

On Oct. 7, the day after bombs began falling on Kabul and Jalalabad, several dozen Corvallis people got together and held a candlelight vigil against the war in Afghanistan. The next day, Beilstein stood with an antiwar sign outside the Benton County courthouse. Two other people showed up with signs of their own.

The next day, more protesters came. Since then, a second war started in Iraq, a new president was installed in the White House, and the Taliban was beaten back, only to regroup again.

Yet in Corvallis, they’re still saying no to the war in Afghanistan. They have been there seven days a week, 365 days a year, between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., since that autumn day in 2001.

“Some days, we have 100. There’s never been just one. Usually, it ends up with at least five or six people by 6 p.m.,’’ said Ed Epley, 72, a retired phone company worker who has been the mainstay of the vigil over the years.

By and large, however, the majority of the response has been positive, the protesters said.

On Oct. 7 - the war’s eighth anniversary, as President Obama mulled the possibility of dispatching more troops - the Corvallis ralliers’ numbers swelled to 75.