Local activists stand vigil for peace outside of the Farmington Post Office Friday, Jan. 28. The end of January marked the 20th anniversary of Farmington’s vigil for peace. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — If you live in Farmington (or if you’ve visited enough), you’ve likely seen the vigil for peace in front of the Farmington Post Office every Friday at noon.

The band of local activists are pretty hard to miss with their banners, flags, posters and sometimes, giant puppets.

The activists stand vigil on exceedingly hot days and cold ones; in rainstorms and in blizzards — which this reporter has witnessed.

The end of January marked 20 years of the weekly vigil for peace in its current form.

The Franklin Journal spoke with many of these activists in interviews and at their Friday, Jan. 28, demonstration to learn about the vigil’s roots and how it’s endured for two decades.

Activists have stood vigil in Farmington throughout the late 20th century.


The most recent, decades-long iteration began on Jan. 25, 2002, as representatives of Women in Black, a movement “for justice, against war,” to protest the invasion of Afghanistan. Founding activists included Lee Sharkey, Eileen Liddy, Judy Rawlings, Eileen Kreutz and Rita Kimber.

Shortly after its inception, male activists in the community expressed a desire to join the Women in Black on Fridays. Some of those men include Doug Rawlings, a founder of the Veterans for Peace organization seeking to “abolish war.”

Thus, the vigil moved forward as welcome to all. And it endures to this day with many of the activists from the early years.

“[We were] standing to have a presence and to say ‘what’s going on is not right,'” Liddy said.

Kreutz feels “the real message of the vigil” that began two decades ago and continues today “is that [the tragedy] of war affects so deeply … inordinately comes to bear on women and children … it doesn’t solve anything and there are other ways to solve things.”

“We stand for the real loss [of war],” Kreutz said.


Additionally, another message of the vigil, which includes an information sheet the activists hand out, states “Go in peace.”

Kreutz added that “people come for their own reasons” today — whether it be to stand for climate justice, racial justice or most recently to mark the first anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

Judy Rawlings said that over the years, there have been a core group of 15 to 20 people that have consistently stood vigil nearly every Friday. Rawlings can only recall “a handful of times that nobody was there.”

The vigil of the 2000s looked a bit different than its modern iteration. Activists stood for a full hour (as opposed to the current 30 minutes) and remained entirely silent “because words often remain insufficient to express the dark tragedies that war and hatred bring,” thus says the information sheet.

The largest difference is the community response. All participants said that they got a lot of pushback for the vigil when it first began.

Though people were first unaware and “curious … as it became obvious that it was an anti-war, anti-military vigil, more people … would say a lot of negative things, yell at us,” Judy Rawlings said.


“Because our country was attacked, people were really patriotic. And so us doing something like that [standing vigil for peace] hit a lot of people the wrong way,” Liddy said.

The activists got “a lot of name calling” and “lots of things worse than that,” Liddy added.

“‘Get a job!'” they are most often told.

Kreutz and Rosenwald recall a time when a truck drove up onto the sidewalk “trying to scare the shit out of us,” Rosenwald said.

“That is a threatening thing, no doubt about it,” Kreutz said.

But Rosenwald said that the fear, potential for risk is the sacrifice activists make “when one is doing the work of peace, pacifism, political rights or racial rights.”


“You know when you go into it, if you have any sense at all, that it could be dangerous,” he said. “There are things that are important and that I have to do in order to see if we can make the living situation better for us.”

No matter the response, however, the vigil activists have always “tried to do it respectfully,” Peggy Yocom said.

“I think it’s important to keep communication open,” Judy Rawlings said.

Over time, Liddy said things changed for the better. Things specifically got “more positive” as more information came out about what led to the Iraq War, particularly that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq at the time of the United States’s invasion.

Doug Rawlings said that his role as a veteran who served in Vietnam has also spurred “respectful discussion.”

“The tenor of people going by slowly, slowly began to change,” Liddy said. “And we began to get more positive responses than negative responses. It felt like we were being appreciated in our presence.”


Nowadays, the activists mark the success of a day in the number of honks or thumbs up they get.

“Now, we have what we call a high-honk day,” Rosenwald said.

The vigil for peace has taken many different forms over the 20 years local activists have demonstrated in downtown Farmington. Pictured are the activists holding up large puppets depicting the different people who face the consequences of war, enveloped by the arms of the “mother figure.” Photos courtesy of Lee Sharkey

All of the activists understand they are not necessarily, directly reaching the politicians who have a say over war and violence while they stand vigil in rural Maine. But it’s not about that, really.

Rather, the vigil serves as a reminder to locals and people passing through Farmington that war is harmful; that there is a “presence” of people in Farmington who strongly believe in peace, Liddy said.

“We’re hoping when people pass, for that very split second, they’ll think about what we’re doing,” Doug Rawlings said. “Who knows where that goes?”

“[The vigil] is not focused so much on representatives at either the state level or at the federal level. It’s focused on the people that pass us on the streets and their awareness,” Kreutz said. “It’s really easy for people to forget that people, their families are affected for long periods of time [by war].”


“I hope it enlightens some peoples’ view and broadens their perspective,” said John Slack, another vigil activist.

“Maybe we will be able to convince others that there are better ways of living,” Rosenwald said.

Additionally, Rosenwald referenced Greta Thunberg, a world-renowned climate justice activist who began her climb to notoriety at 15 years old by simply skipping school on her own and sitting outside of the Swedish parliament.

“You don’t know what impact you’re going to have,” Rosenwald said. “Maybe you will touch someone else and they will carry your message further.”

It looks like there is no end in sight for the Farmington vigil for peace — certainly not at this point in time, with rising tensions between the United States and Russia in Ukraine that feel like another war is on the horizon.

Kreutz said that after the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, the group discussed whether or not the current run of the vigil should come to an end.


“But nobody was willing to bite that bullet. Nobody was willing to back down,” Kreutz said.

Liddy acknowledged that the group, many of whom have been standing all 20 years, are an aging bunch. With the University of Maine at Farmington students sometimes joining the vigil, Liddy has hope for its future.

After the vigil’s 20th anniversary, the activists feel its endurance is a testament to how important taking action is.

Judy Rawlings believes the age of the vigil emphasizes just how serious the issue of war is and how important it is for the group to continue its outreach.

“People standing here are committed,” Rawlings said.

It’s also a testament to the way that the vigil has united these activists and created a strong community.

“These are not just people that I stand vigil with,” Rosenwald said. “These are my closest friends in town.”

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