Peace vigil planned to celebrate life of Mass. activist

By RICHARD K. LODGE | The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass. | Published: September 5, 2018

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — When President George W. Bush sent U.S. troops into war in Iraq more than 14 years ago, Niki Rosen went to Market Square to stand for peace – something she continued to do almost every Sunday until her age caught up to her and her health declined.

Rosen, who died in late August at age 84, stood with peace flags or posters, turning out for the weekly Sunday vigil for more than 14 years. One friend said there were even times when Rosen stood alone in Market Square, continuing her mission.

She showed up at the bullnose in Market Square on rainy days and in blistering heat, waving to cars passing by that honked in support and even to drivers who yelled or gestured in opposition.

In honor of Rosen and her dedication to the local peace and justice movement, friends are planning a peace vigil celebration of Rosen's life from noon to 1 p.m. on Sunday. The gathering will be in Market Square.

Kristine Malpica is one of the organizers of the peace vigil. In a note to The Daily News, she cited Mother Teresa, who said, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

"I know I am not alone in saying that our dear late friend Niki Rosen embodies this truism and served as an inspirational model to many in the local peace and justice movement," Malpica wrote.

Malpica, the director of Imagine Studios, met Rosen in 2000, when Rosen became a volunteer for the nonprofit organization.

"She was wonderful. She helped with many things and always was a spark of light. She had wonderful energy that she contributed to everything she did," Malpica said on Monday.

Her activist work started around the time of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Malpica said. "She just became a vigilant vigiler, you might say. In all weather, sometimes it was just her holding her sign."

On a Sunday in August 2017, Rosen was among the regular handful of demonstrators for peace – a group without a name, Rosen said – there that day to speak out against the violence the previous day in Charlottesville, Virginia, at a rally of white supremacists.

White nationalists, Ku Klux Klan members and skinheads had protested the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, sparking clashes with anti-racism protesters that left one protester dead – killed by a man who rammed his car into a crowd – and two state police officers killed in a helicopter crash.

She said her activism began in response to Bush launching the invasion of Iraq, the beginning of U.S. military entanglement in that country that continues today.

Rosen said that in 2003, she "was inspired by a group that met down here, reading poetry, singing together and protesting how horrible it was that this war was going to start" against Iraq. Now, more than a decade later, she said, "I can't imagine not being here on a Sunday. We've been here in snow and rain and heat. We come every Sunday and we support peace in the world."

Malpica said the last time Rosen took part in the weekly vigil was April 22. After that, her failing health kept her away.

In an interview in August 2017, Rosen said a grandson once asked her why she stood witness with her sign every Sunday when nothing ever seemed to change in the world.

She said she told him that if her presence and her message could get just one person to think about the importance of peace and to tell one person, who would tell another person, that's all she could ask for.

"The more people we have, the more attention we get from people passing by," she said. "And maybe one person will see us and say, 'I ought to rethink my position on this.' "


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