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Report from Madison Peace Rally

Courtesy, Madison IMC: Madisonians and others from around the state rallied today in opposition to the U.S. government's wardrive.

OCTOBER 26, 2002 report by Norman Stockwell, WORT-FM


On Saturday, about 800 to 1000 people gathered at noon for a rally on the steps of the State Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin (which also sent three busloads to the national rally in Washington, DC). The spirited rally, which lasted about one and a half hours, included speakers from Madison, Eau Claire and LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The crowd ranged in age from middle and high school students, who have been very active in recent months, to numerous graying veterans - veterans both of the Vietnam war, and of the protests against it. Before the program began, a moment of silence was observed in honor of the late progressive Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash Friday.

The rally was organized by the Student/Youth Caucus of the Madison Area Peace Coalition, a group that formed spontaneously following the events of September Eleventh, 2001. Rally organizers were both surprised and pleased at the size and spirit of the turnout. Attendees came from as far as Platteville, Whitewater, Milwaukee, La Crosse, Eau Claire, and of course Madison. Good weather and the rally’s proximity to the very popular Dane County Farmer’s Market helped boost attendance. But everyone there expressed disbelief in the polls and TV reports that cite large support for a war. Said one rallygoer, “Someone ought to call CNN and tell them what’s going on.”

Many of the speakers were familiar at Madison rallies Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive magazine, geographer and author Zoltan Grossman, historian Allen Ruff, comparative literature scholar Mary Layoun. But there were many new faces, both in the crowd, and among the organizers & speakers. An English teacher from LaCrosse, a Palestinian student, a Vietnam veteran who said he joined the army 40 years ago, just before the “Gulf of Tonkin” resolution in Congress, “and now they’ve done it again.”

Topics covered were not simply rhetorical opposition to war, but rather speakers called on people to think, to “look at the history” and, “if you are not connected with a peace organization, then get connected.” As one speaker pointed out this unilateral action by the U.S. government is illegal in the eyes of the world. “The Iraqi people, “ he said, “have a right to self-determination - it is not up to the U.S. or Britain to decide what should happen in the Middle East.” Many speakers cited dismay over the picture of the world presented by the U.S. corporate media, and several cited community radio and the website “” as an important source of information on the current situation.

While there were many different speakers, the rally also included many cultural elements - including drumming at the beginning and end, numerous giant papier-mâché puppets, a bicycle wheel turned into a peace sign, and lively chants. Two speakers used their time at the microphone to sing their message one performing the song “I’ve Heard It All Before” from the 1970’s antiwar Broadway musical “Shenandoah”. In a feat of modern technology, the rally also included an update from the national march in Washington, DC via a cellular phone patched into the sound system. And, of course, the group “Food Not Bombs” was on hand with a free hot lunch for anyone interested.

Everyone left feeling reinforced in their belief that they were not alone in their opposition to the administration’s drive for war against Iraq. In fact, many left feeling there was more opposition than ever - one rallygoer went up to a writer for Madison’s afternoon daily, the Capital Times, saying, “I think the paper should run a box everyday listing something, or maybe the top ten things, you could do for peace. Then people could choose one. I’m a regular reader, “ she added. “Well, “ he replied, “we’ll do anything to sell a paper.”



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