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The Cold Winds of Change Were Blowing! Photos from our Fayetteville NC Rally March 17, 2007

Here are some photos from our Fayetteville Peace Rally -- March 17, 2007

Two days before the rally, the weather turned against it: a pouring rain, followed by a cold snap with piercing winds.
Nevertheless, for the several hundred who braved the weather and marched to Fayetteville's Rowan Park, the rally program was one for the record books: eloquent, diverse yet focussed, and full of life, energy and song.

Program planning up to the last minute: Program Chair Walt Caison, above left, huddles with Emcees Allyson Caison and Dave Lippman.

The Rally was true to our now-perennial motto of "Yes To the Troops -- No To the War," as veterans and military family members filled the stage and the air with eloquent cries of protest, appeals to their comrades still on active duty, and poignant accounts of personal and family suggering in the wake of war.

Col. Ann Wright (Army Ret.) explained why she returned to Fayetteville, where she served at Ft. Bragg for three years, to join the march.

Fayetteville resident Ethelyn Baker swelled with pride as she introduced her son -- and the Executive Director of Veterans for Peace -- Michael McPhearson.

Speaking for Vets for Peace, Michael McPhearson announced plans for a VFP caravan from Fayetteville to the Gulf Coast, to join Katrina reconstruction work, and underlined the connection between the hurricane's destruction and the diversion and waste of resources in the Iraq war.

Featured speaker Rev. Dr. William Barber II, President of the NC NAACP, thundered that the war shows that "It is time for America to repent!" and to show that by ending the war and bringing the troops home.

Among the highlights of the speeches were the undeniably authentic voices of five Iraq vets who took the microphone to describe the personal costs of combat, and to repeat that they had been there and they knew the war was built on lies and not worth their willingness to sacrifice.

Among them was Harvey Tharp, right. He was a Navy officer who worked closely with Iraqis as a linguist before being assigned to combat related duties. The unjust reality of the war led him to resign his commission in protest. Since then, Harvey has struggled with PTSD-related disabilities stemming from the war, and has chronicled his struggles in a candid blog, here.

Matt Southworth, of Wilmington, Ohio (with mike, right) brought the crowd to its feet with his cries of "I Love my country" and his anger at its betrayal by leaders who took it and him into an unjust war.

He was joined by Paul Alexander of Pittsburgh PA (at Matt's left), who returned from deployment to become a regional coordinator for Iraq Veterans Against the War.

But you don't have to settle for silent photos of these warrioirs for peace. A ten-minute video of their compelling testimony is now on YouTube,
here, and then here. Don't Miss It!

The rally was much more than speeches. It started and ended with music, and was leavened in between by the very pointed activist humor of Dave Lippman, in his stage persona of George Shrub, the World's Only Known Singing CIA Agent. (More about Dave at his website here. ) As Agent Shrub put it, "The US has achieved something fundamental through the Iraq war -- installing fundamentalists."

Our headliner, legendary activist-singer Holly Near, shared her voice and experience with us at several points in the program. And one of the high points came when the children who had been at our Kids "Peace Train Station" came to the stage. She led them, and us, in "This Little Light of Mine." (Holly is the big kid at the right.)

The afternoon's rousing conclusion was led by Fayetteville guitarist (and 20-year veteran of Ft. Bragg's 82d Airborne Division) Dan Speller and his band, who had the entire park (well, maybe not counting the police) jumping and shouting to the Edwin Starr classic, "War -- What Is It Good For -- Absolutely Nothing!"

Here was the joyful spirit of resistance, protest on behalf of life, the day's last, most exuberant version of the chorus: Yes to the Troops and NO to the War! It was the Spirit of the Fayetteville Peace Rally, 2007.

Chilly Winds of Blew Strongly through Rowan Park that afternoon. But they were truly Winds of Change.


By US Army Reserve Colonel (Retired) Ann Wright

I am returning to Fayetteville on March 17 for the first time in over twenty years. I spent three years on active duty at Fort Bragg as an instructor at the Special Warfare Center and as the Executive Officer of the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, Special Operations Command.

During my time at Fort Bragg, I deployed to Grenada on the 18th Airborne Corps international law team and was a member of the US Army claims commission in Grenada. I stayed for four months and helped reestablish governmental functions and assisted with economic development programs. I ended up being in the US Army and Army Reserves for a total of 29 years and retired as a Colonel.

I then joined the US diplomatic corps and served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Mongolia and Afghanistan. I was on the first State Department team to reopen the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December, 2001 after the CIA and US military pushed the Taliban out of Kabul and had al-Qaeda heading for the Tora Bora mountains.

Ironically, after serving in 8 presidential administrations either in the US military or in the US diplomatic corps, I am returning to Fayetteville to participate in the rally and march to end the war on Iraq.

Why would a 29 year retired US Army Colonel be marching to end the war?

Well, in March, 2003, four years ago as the war on Iraq began, I resigned from the US diplomatic corps in opposition to the war. I was one of three US government employees who resigned. That’s why I am marching to end the war-I gave up my career over the war.

The rally and march in Fayetteville, the home of one of the largest military bases in the United States, is not a march against the service men and women in our military. If it were, I would not participate.

Instead, the march is to call for an end of the administration’s policy that placed our military in Iraq in the first place and secondly to demand that our servicemen and women be provided with proper care when they return.

On March fifth I attended the Congressional hearing in the Walter Reed Hospital auditorium concerning the conditions at Walter Reed for our wounded military and how the transition from active duty medical care to Veterans Administration care can be done much, much more effectively.

While some may disagree with our view that the war in Iraq must end, we will be in the streets of Fayetteville in solidarity with our active duty colleagues demanding better care for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. That we all can agree on.

About the Author: Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army (13 years on active duty and 16 years in the Army Reserves) and retired as a Colonel. She also worked for 16 years as a US diplomat in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She was awarded the State Department’s Award for Heroism for her actions in the evacuation of 2500 members of the international community and Sierra Leone government during the invasion of rebels into the capital city of Freetown in May, 1997. She resigned from the US diplomatic corps in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.

Guidelines & Advice

(Please take A Few Moments
to Review Them.)

All of our annual peace rallies have been free of violence or property damage. Gathering in a military community, we take our motto seriously: "YES to the Troops, NO To the War."

For March 17, we have planned another peaceful and legal event. We have all the needed permits, and have maintained a cordial and open relationship with local authorities. The weather should be great, the park we're marching to is a fine place, and along with protest for peace we should have an upbeat, family-friendly atmosphere.

During the march, we will pass close by some private homes. Please stay out of the yards of these homes as you pass by. (There are a few property owners who have other than welcoming views about our presence.)

Because of security concerns, the Fayetteville police insist on bag searches of all persons entering the park.

We are advised that there will be a counter rally near the park, but we expect it to be peaceful. The police have assured us that they intend to protect the rights of all the groups, and keep the counter-rallies well apart from our gathering. (And, unofficially, we expect the counter groups to be relatively small; they always have been.) We urge all peace rally participants to avoid speaking with or responding to the counter protesters.

Some Things to Remember:

1. Our attitude as conveyed through words, symbols, and actions will be one of openness, friendliness, and respect toward all people we encounter, including police officers, soldiers, military families, and opponents.
2. We will refuse to return the assaults, verbal or physical, of any opponents.
3. We will refrain from insults and swearing.
4. We will protect opponents from insults or attack.
5. As members of the nonviolent demonstration, we will follow the directions of the designated coordinators. In the event of a serious disagreement, we will remove ourselves from the action.
6 We will not damage any property.
7. We will not bring or use any drugs or alcohol. (And please note the list below of items not allowed in the park.)
8. We will not run or use threatening motions.
9. We will carry no weapons.
10. We can expect to have a festive day while bearing a clear and forceful witness for an end to the Iraq war.

Items Not Allowed In the Park:

> Glass containers
> Any kind of weapons, including knives
> Signs and banners made of paper, posterboard or fabric are welcome, but metal or wooden rods, slats or sticks supporting signs are not. (The police feel they could be used as weapons.) Acceptable supports for signs are cardboard tubes, or PVC tubes less than 2 inches in diameter.
> No Fireworks or other pyrotechnics.
> No Pets

And Just In Case . . .
What To Do If Trouble Starts

1. Stay calm-be aware of your power to affect others. Assess what is needed in the situation and feel free to ask others for help.
2. Techniques to maintain nonviolence: Talking, singing, chanting in a calm voice, eye contact, listening, refusing to get into heated arguments, link hands, sit down, non-threatening body language, humor and common sense.
3. If you're with friends, stay together. Discuss possible responses ahead of time so you can respond quickly.
4. If one or two individuals are being loud or confrontational, talk with them, in a normal tone of voice.
5. If a small group becomes involved in a violent confrontation with police, move back, create a clear separation. Ask others to join you. Show that you don't support the violence.
6. Remember, it's okay to say how you feel about what's happening: e.g.: "Stop that" "We want to be nonviolent here." "This isn't useful."


Veterans For Peace Caravan for
Katrina Reconstruction

In 2006 a large group of veterans came together and trekked to Louisiana to do volunteer reconstruction work with survivors of Hurricane Katrina. The motto for this operation was: Defund the War – Rebuild the Gulf Coast!
This year, VFP is again encouraging vets to gather under the same banner. Beginning at the Fayetteville rally on march 17, VFP will organize a veterans’ caravan for Katrina reconstruction. The caravan will leave Fayetteville haded to several major military bases in the southeast, enroute to communities on the Mississippi coast ravaged by the hurricane, and neglected by government.
More details about the Caravan at: Defund the war -- Rebuild the Gulf Coast!