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WEDNESDAY WOMEN IN BLACK

A worldwide silent peace movement has reached Medford

— More than 100 local women, all dressed in black, stood shoulder to shoulder in Vogel Plaza Wednesday in a mute appeal for peace.

The women joined others throughout the world in a protest known as Women in Black. In what is planned to be a weekly event, they stood outside the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater at noon for a half-hour as curious passersby honked, waved or crossed the street to avoid them.

Reaction was mixed from those few observers willing to voice an opinion about the burgeoning international sisterhood-for-peace phenomenon, now making its presence felt in the Rogue Valley.

One woman stopped and said she was personally saddened by the need for the demonstration.

The woman, who declined to give her name, said she and her husband had both voted for Bush and now were fighting about what was right for the nation.

He totally trusts the man we put in office, but I'm horrified, she said. I'm ashamed of our government and how we're treating other nations. I'm so ashamed to be an American ' those horrible names we're calling the French.

Pam Johnson was on her lunch break when she passed by the demonstration. Johnson said she supports Women in Black and may join them some Wednesday.

I'm all for this, said Johnson. I joined the peace march last month.

Hoots of affirmation and catcalls of derision came from motorists driving past the spectacle of 100 women of all ages ' from infant to elderly ' filling the perimeter of the park.

If we let it go, you'll all be standing there in veils, shouted one middle-aged male.

Go Bush! yelled a woman in a rental car.

Other drivers honked and shouted, Go women!

Organizer Nancy Bardos said she first learned about Women in Black from an Associated Press news article in the .

Bardos and some friends sent the word out about the demonstration by e-mail chains and word of mouth.

I had no idea how many would show up. Most of us are unknown to each other, said Bardos.

Bardos told the demonstrators that Women in Black was started 15 years ago in Israel by women protesting the violence in the West Bank and Gaza.

The idea has since spread to Belgrade, Jerusalem, Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, Beijing, London and the United States.

She asked the women to stand silently and spend their half-hour of demonstration by meditating and visualizing a world at peace.

She asked the women not to engage with any passersby and to leave any discussion to their spokesperson, Donna Patella.

Patella, an art teacher at Rogue Community College, said she was chosen because I've been told I can speak to a fence post and have a meaningful conversation.

Patella did not have to put her gift of gab to the test this first demonstration. Besides, she said, silence can speak volumes.

Women's voices are sometimes drowned out, said Patella. But how can they drown us out, if we are silent?

They say they'll be back to repeat their demonstration every Wednesday.

It's a half-hour of peace, today and all Wednesdays from now on. We will be here at 12 o'clock, said Bardos.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail .

More than 100 women dressed in black hold a silent vigil in Medford?s Vogel Plaza Wednesday to protest the pending U.S. war with Iraq. Donna Patella, in front, helps a pedestrian with a question. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell