Demonstrators for peace in the Middle East this week began a series of candlelight vigils in Ojai that they vow to continue every night until Jan. 15.
“We just can’t sit in our living rooms,” said Maggie Phelps, an actress, hairdresser and one of the vigil organizers. “We want to encourage people in these last days to call their congressmen or the President and let their voices be heard.”
Carrying candles and singing peace songs, the demonstrators are gathering from 5:30 to 7 p.m. by the Libbey Park fountain in downtown Ojai.
“I think each day the ranks will swell,” said Lilly Barthelemy, another organizer and the owner of a local toy store.
Many motorists are honking in support of the vigils but at least one passerby shouted “Go Home!” Barthelemy said.
Another yelled, “Bomb Iran!”
The first vigil Monday drew about 20 participants. About 40 people showed up Tuesday, and organizers said 35 people attended Wednesday’s rally.
Also Wednesday, the Ojai Valley chapter of the Beyond War organization held a public forum.
The forum, titled “Give Peace a Chance,” featured four residents: a history teacher, an economist, a Lutheran pastor and a retired Army nurse who served in World War II.
Moderator Robert Underwood, pastor at Ojai United Methodist Church, said the forum was held to generate discussion and encourage people to approach their elected representatives “with appeals for patience and peace in the resolution of the Persian Gulf” crisis.
“One of Beyond War’s basic principles is that war is no longer an effective means to resolve conflict. It is obsolete,” he said.