A brief history of LMNOP

by Steve & Beth Wagner
August 2007

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace (LMNOP) was first formed in 1991 as a community protest against the first Gulf War. The weekly peace walks around the Lake usually attracted 200 or more people, including a "Kids 4 Peace" contingent. And this was in the days before email! One special nighttime candlelight peace walk around the Lake during that war was attended by over 700 people.

LMNOP was revived in 1999 to protest the U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia. Once again weekly peace walks around the Lake were held every Sunday, this time with a smaller group of participants. During the destruction of Yugoslavia by the Clinton Administration, we were one of the very few antiwar activities happening in Oakland. When the bombing ended, an e-mail list and phone list were developed to mobilize people for various antiwar events, especially those protesting the continuing sanctions against Iraq and those calling for justice for the Palestinians.

Soon after 9-11 the weekly peace walks were started again on September 23rd, 2001, in response to the rush to war of the Bush administration, that quickly led to the bombing of Afghanistan. At first the peace walks were attended by 80 to 200 people, then became smaller, then larger again as the invasion of Iraq approached. LMNOP organized a candlelight vigil at the colonnade in February 2003, attended by approximately 400 people, as part of the worldwide candlelight vigils that night to protest the U.S. government's imminent plans to bomb Iraq.

The Sunday peace walks have continued every week since then, with a sometimes small but always very dedicated band of peace walkers, presenting a consistent presence for peace in Oakland. LMNOP "regulars" come from the neighborhoods surrounding the Lake as well as other parts of Oakland, and Berkeley and Livermore and Alameda.

In the past six years the weekly peace walks have had visiting peace walkers from all over, including as far away as Sweden and Japan. We have occasionally been attended and covered by the media, including Channel 2 News, the Chronicle, The Montclarion, and the Contra Costa Times, as well as a newspaper in Japan, Akahata, with a circulation of over two million. From the beginning the response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive, with many honks of support every week from passing cars, firetrucks, AC Transit buses and even police cars, and expressions of gratitude from passers by.

The group hopes that their peace walk, with its consistent time and location, encourages people to join in the antiwar movement whenever they feel like it, without a prohibitive commitment of time and energy. Anyone opposed to war is welcome to attend any Sunday at 3 o'clock, starting at the colonnade at the northeast end of Lake Merritt.