September 11, 2006



Protester has peace of mind
By Will Courtney

NEWBURYPORT - The seeds of Niki Rosen's calling to the peace movement date back many wars ago.

As a child living near an air base in Omaha, Neb., during World War II, her parents were air raid wardens because the base was deemed a possible target.

As she grew older, she connected with the '60s peace movement but watched from afar as a "hippie groupie." When Vietnam came, the pangs for peace work grew, but her focus was on raising five children, not on protesting war.

Then came the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. She remembers being shocked that day, but it was our country's reaction to the attacks that would change her life. Her children were grown. She was no longer married. It was her time to take a stand.

"I realized this was something I needed to do," she said.

A near-miss car accident, in which she fell asleep at the wheel and had a brush with an 18-wheeler, steeled her resolve. So, two weeks before the "shock and awe" attacks that would begin a war that continues today, she took to Market Square on a Sunday afternoon and rallied for peace.

She was alone, both in number and in her beliefs.

"Friends and family said it was really pointless. No one would pay attention," she said. "But if one in 100, one in 1,000 maybe rethink their stance, that was worth it."

The reactions she got that first day weren't pleasant. As drivers went by, they'd yell, "Get a job!" and "Get a life!" Two men laughed and yelled, "You're too late!" She doesn't remember one positive remark.

But Rosen, a small, 72-year-old, self-described "grey hair" who walks with help of a cane, did not waver. She feels very strongly that violence begets violence; until the world begins to think and act in nonviolent ways, there will be no peace.

She has found particular solace in the views of Frederick Franck, a Dutch-born artist and writer who created a sanctuary called Pacem in Terris - which translates to "Peace on Earth." Rosen once volunteered to weed the garden so she could spend time there. She has studied many philosophies, from Ghandi to Buddhism.

She notes that this Sept. 11 marks the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of Ghandi's nonviolent resistance movement.

Today, Rosen's personal nonviolent resistance movement is gaining its own followers. Now, when she goes out to Market Square, she has as many as 20 companions. She was even joined by her 11-year-old grandson on one occasion.

She says there are still naysayers, but now many people walk up to and thank her for being there. And Rosen is almost always there, every Sunday with her peace signs in tow, even when there's snow up to her knees. Only heavy rain keeps her away, because it runs the ink on her signs.

She'll keep going every week, she said, "as long as I can."

People tell her she'll die with her winter boots on, right there in Market Square.

"My life has changed many times," she said. "This is my life now - family and peace work."


(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Daily News, an Eagle Tribune Newspaper.)

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