This Fourth of July, the M.V. Peace Council, M.V. Quaker meeting, and Indivisible M.V. joined forces for a peaceful demonstration at Cannonball Park in Edgartown. Titled a “Silent Witness for Peace and Justice,” all were welcomed to come by from 10 to 11:30 am, and display handmade posters roadside.
Participants of all ages filed in throughout the event, a clouded sky overhead. Some hung their posters on twine with clothespins, while others held them high alongside Upper Main Street.
Conversations between friends, both new and old, took place at an approximated social distance, through face coverings.
There were an estimated 35 to 40 people gathered, and as cars passed they honked, and whoops of support could be heard inside the vehicles.
Kathy Laskowski, an affiliate of the M.V. Peace Council and M.V. Quaker meeting, offered guidance at the poster-making table, complete with cut cloths and Sharpies for decorating. “We wanted to do something different with a silent witness,” Laskowski said. She observed the small groups of conversation taking place around the park. “Maybe silent witnesses aren’t always silent, but we aren’t chanting,” Laskowski said.
On the craft table was a small stack of papers, each giving advice for creating a “peace flag.” According to the flyers, such flags derive from the ancient traditions of the prayer flags of Tibet. “The prayers printed on the flags are carried on the wind to spread goodwill and positive energy wherever they go,” the flyer read. “The flags provide us with a visual reminder that we live in one world, and share similar hopes and dreams.”
For Sarah Nevin, an M.V. Peace Council member and demonstration organizer, these are philosophies worth spreading. “We wanted to focus on Black Lives Matter and all the civil rights issues going on right now,” Nevin said. The M.V. Peace Council usually participates in the Fourth of July parade, which was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevin expressed the group’s desire to share their values of peace and patriotism in another way. “This is meant to cheer people up, and to give us hope,” Nevin said.
Participant Lisette Williams brought her own sign to the demonstration. “I’m part of ‘We Are Worth It M.V.’; we’re a Facebook group that formed after Waban Park,” Williams said of the May 31 protest in Oak Bluffs. Though Williams is from Cambridge, she has long thought of the Island as a second home. “I’m here to support,” Williams said.
For participant Linda Cohen, the day’s demonstration was far from her first. “I have a history of attending protests in Washington, D.C., in the ’60s — and a history with tear gas,” Cohen said.
Cohen has participated in Island demonstrations as well, including the Juneteenth march from Veterans Memorial Park. Smaller-scale demonstrations are just as important as any large one, she said. “Every time people come out and stand for justice, and stand for equal rights, I think it’s worth it,” Cohen said.