Man Chains Himself to Bench in Hunger Strike Against Iraq War By LYDIA GANS Special to the Planet

Tuesday February 28, 2006

Hyim Ross doesn’t look like a hero. He’s a 30-something musician and school teacher and, like many, he’s angry that money that is needed for schools is going to fight the war in Iraq. 

He has taken his convictions to the street. He spent the week of his school vacation fasting, chained to a bench on Grand Avenue across from the Grand Lake Theater. Around him were posters with anti-war messages, an American flag, a chair and a tent to shelter him at night.  

“I’m here saying my piece and trying to get the word out that we’re spending too much money and putting too much energy into the war in Iraq and that we need to put our energy and efforts into children,” he said.  

Hyim Ross was there to get attention and he was getting it. Radio, TV, print journalists came out to interview him. He was there to get out the message that our country needs to change direction. Brother Muzika, a fifth-grade teacher at Lakeview School across the street, said he could appreciate what that means. He brought his class, a group of 10- and 11-year-old girls and boys, over for a conversation with Hyim.  

The kids had some questions: “Are you a victim of this war?” one asked. 

Hyim didn’t have anyone in this war he told them, but his family had been affected by violence. A girl was concerned about his health because he was not eating. 

“Are you satisfied with doing this?” she asked. He assured her that he was, particularly he was satisfied meeting with them. 

“If you were president, would you stop the war?” one boy wanted to know.  

Another asked, “If you had a chance to talk to the president, what would you say to him?”  

The youngsters were not shy about expressing their own opinions to this reporter. “My name is Donnell and I want to say this war is stupid!” John demanded, “Bush, save our schools and stop the war.” 

A girl spoke more gently, “My name is Marnay and I just want to say, please Bush, give money to schools, give teachers their pay cuts back.” 

Some of the kids made posters and taped them up on the concrete wall behind Hyim’s tent. 

Everyone gathered around to talk about how to make change happen. Brother Muzika, the teacher, spoke of the civil rights movement. It was an example of how “a lot of people acting peacefully could bring about change.” 

That’s what Hyim is about, he said, adding, “I’m not doing anything violent. I’m out here because I care.” 

What is important is to get the word out, to get more and more people involved. Hyim asked the kids, “Have each of you told at least one other person about this?” All of the children raised their hands.