Veterans for Peace advocates for change with weekly Pentacrest protest

For almost a decade, Veterans for Peace has held banners and signs advocating for non-violence on the Pentacrest


Wyatt Dlouhy

The Old Capitol building is seen in 2018.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

Every Friday afternoon for nearly 10 years, members  of Veterans for Peace Chapter 161 have stood on the Pentacrest, displaying banners promoting peace and handing out fliers to passersby.

The group, made up of veterans and supporters, has formed a strong presence in the Iowa City community. The members hold weekly meetings, reach out to local schools, and have weekly demonstrations on the Pentacrest, which have included between eight and 30 participants.

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The group has been a fixture on the Pentacrest for many years with bus drivers and motorists honking and waving as they passed the demonstration on Clinton Street.

Veterans for Peace President Ed Flaherty said the group is especially focused on the upcoming Senate vote on ending U.S. support of Saudi forces. The group gave handouts urging citizens to contact their senators.

“This is one of the things that has us really energized right now,” Flaherty said.

For a lot of the members of the group, advocating for peace has been a part of their lives for many years.

Member Joe Michaud served in the military for seven years and began advocating for peace as a student at Kansas State during the Vietnam War. He said Veterans for Peace offers him the opportunity to continue what he started as a student.

“ [When] I started hearing about what was really going on in Vietnam, I joined the peace movement. That was while I was in college, but then you go out and you have to get a job, raise a family,” Michaud said. “I feel [Veterans for Peace is] very much the same thing, what I was trying to do in college.”

The group also works with Peace Iowa and other Iowa City activist groups. Michaud said Veterans for Peace often attends protests with other activists in the Iowa City area.

Co-President David Hempel came to the UI as a student in 1966 and quickly became involved in the peace movement. He has been involved with Veterans for Peace for the last five years.   

Hempel said outreach is essential to the mission of the group. The group often speaks to students at Northwest Junior High School, in Coralville, and hopes to expand to more schools in the future. The group plans to reach out to the VFW to expand its membership, he said.

“We do as much outreach to get our message out there, which is the root of peace,” he said. “I think we reach a lot of people with these handouts. Everyone gets their information online [nowadays], but we still get a lot of people going through here.”

For member Linda Fisher, the only female veteran in the local group, her experience playing an instrument in VA hospitals with the Women’s Air Force band led her to become a peace activist. She played in the band from 1960 to 1961 and has been in the Iowa City area since 1967.

“It’s worthwhile to be [an activist],” Fisher said. “When you’re a veteran, you know the price of war. That’s why I carry the sign. War is not the answer. It never has been and never will be. Just not for human beings.”

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