March 26, 2004: Headlines: COS - El Salvador: Speaking Out: Protest: CCMEP: Peace activist El Salvador RPCV John Kefalas serves as protest buffer

Peace Corps Online: Directory: El Salvador: Special Report: El Salvador RPCV and Political Activist John Kefalas: March 26, 2004: Headlines: COS - El Salvador: Speaking Out: Protest: CCMEP: Peace activist El Salvador RPCV John Kefalas serves as protest buffer

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Peace activist El Salvador RPCV John Kefalas serves as protest buffer

Peace activist El Salvador RPCV John Kefalas serves as protest buffer

Peace activist El Salvador RPCV John Kefalas serves as protest buffer

Peace activist serves as protest buffer
Fort Collins man negotiates at rally
By Coleman Cornelius
Denver Post Northern Colorado Bureau

Wednesday, March 26, 2003 - FORT COLLINS - John Kefalas was six days into a water-only fast Tuesday morning. He was hungry, weak - and preoccupied with thoughts of his son, an Army sergeant on a cargo ship bound for Iraq.

Yet Kefalas, a well-known peace activist in Fort Collins for 20 years, managed to play a central role in a street blockade to protest the war in Iraq.

He served as negotiator between Fort Collins riot police and 150 rowdy war protesters who chanted, paraded banners, pounded bongo drums and blew whistles in the name of peace.

The two-hour act of civil disobedience, which disrupted traffic at the busy intersection of College Avenue and Prospect Road, ended as Kefalas had urged: peacefully. No violence, no arrests, no tear gas.

Some angry passers-by said they viewed the protest as an insult to U.S. soldiers endangering their lives to end atrocities inflicted by a military dictator.

"It just breaks my heart that we can't support our guys over there," said Becky Brown of Fort Collins, whose son and daughter-in-law are Army enlistees called to war. She tearfully confronted protesters while holding her 13-month-old granddaughter.

But Kefalas said it is his personal stake in the war that drives his activism. A sign on his lawn proclaims "Support Our Troops - Bring Them Home Now." And a photograph of his son, 23-year-old Harlan Kefalas, accompanies the peace slogan.

"There's no question armed forces have contributed to the freedoms we have and cherish in this country. I honor and respect the sacrifices people make," said Kefalas, 48, who is fasting in a show of support for U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

"But people forget it's not just soldiers who contribute to freedoms. It's people like us," Kefalas said, referring to peace activists. "Dissent, in my opinion, is as American as apple pie. Dissent is patriotic. Dissent is part of this country."

While Kefalas and his son disagree about the role of the U.S. military, the father said the two are bonded by love.

Fellow activists credited Kefalas for helping bring a calm conclusion to the street obstruction, which sparked a handful of emotional disputes between war protesters and supporters.

"I was glad he was working as a liaison. We're really lucky to have him here," said fellow activist Cheryl Distaso.

"John has been a huge force in the peace movement for many years - unwavering," Distaso said. Kefalas is a public-policy advocate for Catholic Charities of Northern Colorado. He said he has been committed to social justice and nonviolence since he volunteered for the Peace Corps in El Salvador in the late 1970s.

His up-close look at poverty and violence was a "conversion experience," Kefalas said.

It formed his guiding belief that war cannot solve conflicts and spurred him to resist policies that contribute to more bloodshed.

Some supporters of war in Iraq see that philosophy as unrealistic, the naive notion of peaceniks pampered by democracy.

"You're enjoying all the freedoms our people have paid their lives for," Grace Brownlee of Fort Collins angrily told protesters on Tuesday.

But Kefalas views peace activism as crucial to freedom. "We're strengthening democracy because we're ensuring the right people have to address their grievances in a peaceful way," he said. "We're exercising our right to disagree with our government."

When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:

This Month's Issue: August 2004 This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?

Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."

In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.

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Story Source: CCMEP

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - El Salvador; Speaking Out; Protest



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