A Local Peace Rally, February 2003

Small local peace rallies are just as important as the huge marches held in January 2003 in Washington and San Francisco.

Imagine the difference in President Bush's reaction if he is told, "It's just those crazies in San Francisco," as opposed to, "Sorry, Mr. President, but people are rallying all over the country."

At least he'd have to think about that. This President doesn't like to think about things, so he has to be forced to do it. As citizens, that's our job—to keep our leaders honest.

Here's how it looked at a local rally in Palo Alto, California.

An unofficial estimate is that 3,000 people showed up throughout the day. Considering that the rally occurred on the day that the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated, the turnout was very good.

Before we marched, speakers spoke...

and spoke...

and spoke...

This part of the rally was painfully slow, except for a few people who spoke well enough to grab the audience's attention.

Xentrik observed that most of the interesting speakers were clerics, people who had learned how to speak by preaching and giving sermons.

The worst speakers were university professors, with their interminable statistics and historical overviews.

Lots of parents brought their kids. If I was bored, I can't imagine how it felt to a 3 or 4 year old.

The adults knew how to express it, though.

Some speakers explained how the issue of Palestine is integrally tied to the Iraq situation. I'd be happy to summarize that here, if only I had understood their arguments. They believe it very sincerely, though.

I'm concerned about losing focus. First, we delay launching this Iraq invasion. Then we can wage peace on a broader front.

As an example, what does the Socialist perspective on the Venezuelan crisis have to do with slowing the government's rush to war?

I wouldn't ask this gentleman, unless you have several hours to spare.

That's just my opinion. I'm sure many people would be glad to explain why I'm wrong, on any and all counts.

Of course there were folk singers!

At long last, we got the word to march, although maybe the crowd just got sick of waiting and began "leading our leaders." We walked a few square blocks of the downtown, smiling and waving to people on the sidewalks, who gawked at us openly like kids sometimes stare at grownups.

It was very pleasant and mellow and suburban. If there was any risk or danger involved in taking it to the streets, I couldn't sense it. Well, the wind was a little bit chilly, I guess.

Most signs and chants were courteous and good natured—although I was embarrassed for the guy whose sign read, "War Is Bullshit." He seemed no more articulate than President Bush.

City police officers were there, directing traffic around the blocks that were closed for our march.

They were professional, but clearly not in the spirit of the rally.

The instant the march permit expired, they drove their cars and motorcycles through the crowd that remained on the pavement, using their sirens and bullhorns to herd us back onto the sidewalks.

They showed us this wasn't a block party after all.

Or maybe it was a kind of block party, in a unique American tradition.

In small town New England, before government got so big, town meetings were an important part of the democratic process. People voiced their opinions in public, and the government listened.

Isn't that a great idea?

The Peninsula Peace and Justice Center sponsored this particular rally.

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