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A BLACK AND WHITE ISSUE'

While the Women in Black vigil triples in size, today's planned 'Women in White' demonstration might also grow

As anxiety mounts over a possible U.S. war with Iraq, the Women in Black were back at Vogel Plaza Wednesday ' their numbers tripling to almost 300 from their inaugural Medford protest last week.

Meanwhile, Erlene Thomson, who staged a one-woman counter-demonstration last Thursday calling herself Woman in White, can expect company today. KCMX radio talk show hosts Rosemary and Garth Harrington are planning to attend Thomson's vigil at — p.m. in the plaza and have told their listeners about it.

After last Wednesday's WIB demonstration against war in Iraq hit the front page of the , Thomson hit the road to Medford in support of President Bush and her 19-year-old grandson, Jeffrey Allen, serving on the USS Anchorage, a Navy amphibious assault ship.

Donna Patella, who acts as spokeswoman during the WIB's half-hour of mute appeal for peace, agrees there is room for differing voices. But she said she was sorry to read that Thomson felt WIB is not supporting the military.

I'm truly sorry she felt we were being negative to the armed services, said Patella. They all have value and their value is huge.

The WIB on Wednesday stood two to three deep in line for their weekly vigil outside the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, while passersby applauded or derided their presence.

Patella said most of the feedback she's received has been positive. However, she said, she has been subjected to threats for speaking words of peace for the group.

A gentleman was just here screaming in my face that we were wrong and we shouldn't be here, she said. The calmer I got, the more agitated he became. And I've received intimidating phone calls at home.

When informed the WIB has received threats of violence, the Harringtons said they were disgusted by the news.

I think people's belief systems can become distorted to the point where it's their way or the highway ' and that's a very distorted view, said Garth Harrington. Why would you threaten them? What are they doing to you?

Rosemary Harrington said she feels both groups want peace but are choosing different ways to express their beliefs.

We all want peace, she said. But I support the president and his advisers because I have to. The man (Bush) took an oath, and I'll trust that they'll do what's right for the nation.

But I'm a child of the '60s, so I remember those peaceful demonstrations and I think Martin Luther King had the right idea.

Patella said she and the other WIB participants are determined to continue the weekly peace vigils in spite of the threats, but she added she's dumbfounded at the hostility.

I have a hard time understanding where the anger is coming from, said Patella. We are asking for peace and that seems to make some people angry.

WIB co-organizer Beth Baker said the hostility doesn't faze her.

The more people taunt us, the more it makes me want to come out here, said Baker.

Threats aside, the WIB movement seems to be spreading throughout the Rogue Valley.

Justine Cooper, the executive director of Peace House, was at Vogel Plaza handing out Honor Vets: Wage Peace bumper stickers.

At the end of Wednesday's vigil, Cooper announced Ashland would be starting its own WIB demonstrations at noon on Fridays in the Plaza, near Lithia Park.

Ana Calantini, also of Ashland, said she was grateful to the movement's organizers.

I want to thank the women of Medford for doing this, said Calantini.

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About 300 women lined Vogel Plaza in the Women in Black?s second weekly noon vigil Wednesday. The line continued beyond the theater at right in the photo. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli