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... And Chapel Hillians speak out

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If the TV news is keeping you up at night, it might be time to turn it off and talk to your neighbors instead.

That's the impetus behind the Town Hall Meetings on Iraq. The two-event series was organized by three local women and sponsored by the Orange County Peace Coalition. Vivian Phillips, who initiated the meetings, said she wanted to give people a forum to voice their fears and questions about the war. She also wanted to give people who are being drawn into anti-war protest for the first time in their lives a chance to talk to seasoned activists about how it's done. "We live in a very, very dangerous time and it's time for people to do something," Phillips said. "We can't wait for the government to see the light. We're not just going to go to war with Saddam Hussein, we're going to kill innocent civilians."

Organizers estimated that about 150 people attended last Thursday's event, nearly filling the 200-seat hall. A panel of activists spoke for 40 minutes, followed by questions and comments from the crowd. "Most people came because they're against the war," said co-organizer Nancy Brown. She said there was a "general atmosphere of urgency," with people asking questions about history and politics and throwing out ideas about how the local community can get involved.

Phillips, who said she had never organized an event before, said she was glad to give the community a chance to express their emotions. "I think a lot of people are scared, or angry, or shocked. I wanted to address that." At a time when war feels inevitable, Phillips said it helps to know your neighbors share your concerns. "I want to be around other people who think like me and know that there's a lot of work to be done."

The organizers said next week's event (Feb. 11, 7-9 p.m. at Chapel Hill Town Hall, 306 North Columbia St.) will be organized around less panel discussion and more community participation, so come and express yourself. For more information, call Vivian Phillips at 969-7145.

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