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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.