Chicago activist Michael McConnell dies | WBEZ
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Prominent Chicago peace activist Michael McConnell dies of cancer

Michael McConnell was a prominent Chicago peace activist. He died Sunday, April 7, after battling cancer.  (Photo Courtesy of American Friends Service Committee)

Updated 10:35 a.m.

Michael McConnell, a prominent Chicago anti-war activist, died Sunday, April 7, following a battle with cancer.

McConnell was regional director of the American Friends Service Committee and an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ.

At a 2010 panel recorded by WBEZ's Chicago Amplified, he said, “Pacifism counters the  myth that violence is the most powerful force. Pacifism must never be confused with passivity.”

McConnell demonstrated this approach through his creativity in organizing marches, vigils and protests: He said pacifism was a form of combat, calling for tactics and strategy.

“It has to be not only the head but the heart. And you have to have people understand war and peace on a visceral level."

In his own attempt to make the feeling of war more visceral, McConnell co-created Eyes Wide Open, an exhibit that displayed a pair of combat boots for every soldier that died in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The exhibit started in 2004 with 500 boots. As the casualties grew, so did the exhibit until 2007, when the casualties reached 3,500 and the project had to be divided into smaller exhibits.

Despite confronting violence almost daily, McConnell told a crowd that young people made him hopeful.

“This is a generation that we can count on.”

He agreed with a man at the event who called out, “We may not get there with you.” McConnell added, “But you’ll get there for us.”

The visitation is Thursday, April 11, from 4 to 9 p.m. at John E. Maloney Funeral Home, 1359 W. Devon Ave. in Chicago. The memorial service is Friday, April 12, at 4 p.m., at Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, 619 W. Wellington Ave.


Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her at @shannon_h

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