Springs students rally in D.C.
stood shoulder to shoulder during the peace rally held in Washington,
D.C., Saturday, Oct. 26.
By Don Wallis
Young people of Yellow Springs helped lead a massive rally for peace Saturday
in the nations capital, hailed as the biggest grassroots demonstration
to be held in Washington since the Vietnam era three decades ago. People
came from throughout the United States to protest the Bush administrations
threatened war against Iraq.
In the massed crowd of more than 100,000 people some observers
estimated 150,000, even 200,000 were 42 teenagers from Yellow Springs,
students at Yellow Springs High School and McKinney Middle School. They
ranged in age from 13 to 18.
They were awesome. Wearing bright yellow no war headbands
and displaying bright yellow signs and banners, accompanied by giant walking
puppets 15 feet tall, the Yellow Springs kids drew special attention
praise, applause and gratitude for their vivid commitment to the
cause of peace.
Yellow Springs High School, Ohio, their signs and banners
STOP THE WAR.
One of the signs offered a corrective lesson to President Bush: Act
Like Its a Globe, not an Empire!
In a poignant reference to the 9/11 Twin Towers tragedy, a black-edged
sign declared: Our Grief Is Not A Cry for War.
And one of the Yellow Springs banners declared Community for Peace.
The students purpose in going to Washington was to let our
voices be heard, said one of the two leaders of the Yellow Springs
group, high school senior Ashlee Cooper.
This government doesnt speak for me, she said, and so
she felt she must raise her own voice. It is a right and a duty of American
citizenship, she said, to express dissent in an orderly, peaceful protest.
Another student, Martin Borchers, said he went to Washington to march
for peace because I dont want war to be the only option. I
dont think it should be. I feel that peace should be an option.
And, he said, I learned that if there is a war, they are expecting
30,000 deaths. I feel peace is something worth marching for.
Ashlee Cooper and Matt Wallace, also a senior, organized the peace rally
trip as their senior project at Yellow Springs High School. Aurelia Blake,
Matts mother and a teacher at the McKinney School, helped conceive
the project and bring it to fruition.
They chartered two buses, one for students and the other for adults from
the community. Both buses were full when they left for Washington Friday
night, with 45 riders on each bus. Several Yellow Springs people drove
their cars to the rally; in all, more than 100 villagers went to Washington.
Talking with Jesse Jackson
The peace rally lasted all day, with the crowd gathering around a stage
on the mall near the Lincoln Memorial, where the great civil rights rallies
led by Martin Luther King Jr. were held. The Vietnam War Memorial was
a short distance away.
The peace rally crowd grew larger and larger as the rally progressed until,
as several speakers said, there were people massed in all directions,
as far as the eye could see. Not since the 1960s demonstrations against
the Vietnam war and in support of the civil rights movement have so many
people come to Washington to protest their governments policies.
Among the dozen-plus speakers at the rally were Jesse Jackson, actress
Susan Sarandon, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, civil rights activist
Larry Holmes and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Other speakers
were leaders of religious, youth, workers and womens organizations.
The themes of their speeches reflected the messages conveyed by the thousands
of signs and banners displayed in the audience: No Blood for Oil,
No Peace Without Justice, Drop Bushes, Not Bombs,
Save the Children and Money For Jobs Not War.
Their overall message was: the American people do not want a war with
Iraq, and the world does not want an American Empire.
Jesse Jackson was the most popular speaker, the one the crowd most wanted
to hear, the one who drew the most rousing applause. Before he spoke,
some of the Yellow Springs people talked with him in back of the stage,
just after he arrived at the rally.
In the crush of the crowd that swarmed around Jackson was Aaron Cobb of
Yellow Springs, bearing the bright yellow Stop the War banner
with Yellow Springs High Schools name on it. It caught Jacksons
eye. He asked about the high school, and soon he was deep in conversation
about Yellow Springs with a group that included Aaron Cobb, Matt Wallace
and Aurelia Blake.
Their discussion went on for several moments as the crowd pressed close
all around them. People were snapping pictures of them in this
moment the Yellow Springs people, as well as Jesse Jackson, were celebrities.
Jackson congratulated them for coming, beaming at them and shaking their
hands. He said the future of the world depended on young people like them.
You are in the right place and at the right time, Jackson
told them. He said they were the leaders of the future.
Part of a true community
On this day it seemed the Yellow Springs young people already were leaders.
These kids had led their hometown community to this peace rally; and once
they got there, they became leaders, in a sense, of the peace-rally community
that formed for this days event.
All day long, the Yellow Springs kids were everywhere around the rally
site. Everywhere you looked you saw them in their bright yellow headbands,
with their signs and banners and giant puppets thrust high into the air
above the crowd.
People noticed. They appreciated these young peoples presence
their youth, their energy, the sense of community community
of peace they conveyed. People in the crowd were heard exclaiming,
Theres a whole school here from Ohio.
When it came time for the rally to end and the march to begin, the Yellow
Springs kids came together in a marching group and made their way through
the crowd toward the street. People in the crowd stood aside to let them
pass, and spontaneously they began to applaud, and they kept applauding
a standing ovation until the whole group had passed by.
Included in the group along with the kids were several of the adults from
Yellow Springs, who spent the day helping the kids work with the signs
and banners and the giant puppets. It is hard work, rallying for peace
holding up heavy signs in a jostling crowd for hours and hours,
or applying the complex skills it takes to balance and move the giant
puppets. Gwin Cane, Lynn Sontag, and Beth and Andy Holyoke helped bring
the giant puppets to life, and Mike Carr and his son Joe helped carry
some of the biggest signs and banners.
The adults supportive presence was an important part of the days
meaning for the students. I felt like I was part of a true community,
said one student. Sometimes I feel like the Yellow Springs adult
community and the high school community never come together. This was
a great event because we did come together. It felt nice to be standing
by your elder Yellow Springs citizens, standing up together for something
you truly believe in.
What democracy looks like
The people marched through the streets of Washington, thronged together
shoulder-to-shoulder, completely filling the broad avenues. There were
so many people marching that the march often slowed to a crawl, or stopped
altogether before starting up again. It was a good-natured crowd. There
was no pushing or shoving. There were only rarely any signs of tension.
Police lined the streets, but they werent really needed all
day long, they made only three arrests.
It was, perhaps, the beginning of a rebirth of the peace movement in America.
The marchers chanted: This is what democracy looks like, this is
what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like.
As the march approached the White House, there was a lull in the chanting.
Some of the marchers tried to get new chants started, but they fizzled
out. Yellow Springs youth came to the rescue. Tia Lurie and Rose Byrnes
were among the marchers, bearing the banner that said Community
for Peace. Tia remembered hearing a chant earlier in the march
she started chanting it, and Rose joined in:
They say its for the people,
So the people can be free.
But WE are the people
Dont fight this war for me!
The marching crowd picked it up, and it quickly caught on. That chant
was chanted by thousands of peace marchers as they marched around the
grounds of the White House.
I could really change the world
That night on the bus going back home, the Yellow Springs young people
wrote about their reactions to their day.
I feel it was a life-changing experience, Bethany Borbely
wrote. I was amazed by the cultural diversity . . . I truly feel
that by participating in the protest it has changed my outlook on worldwide
Jeanna GunderKline wrote: This is the first time that I have ever
joined together with a huge group of people that feel the same way I do
strongly about an important issue. I am so glad that I decided
to take this opportunity to exercise the right to let my voice be heard.
Aurianna Tuttle: I was amazed to see all the different colors, types
and religions all come together as one. Now I feel like I know so much
more about our brothers and sisters in Iraq! This was an awesome trip.
James Hyde: I had the awe-inspiring feeling that I was part of a
great movement of people all over the world, standing up for what we believe.
Elizabeth Dixon: It was amazing to see all the people stand up for
what they believe in. It was not just about politics or some difference
they have to fight for, it was about the true meaning and importance of
the whole issue and how it would affect everyones lives, now and
in the future. It made me happy to see all those people cared so much.
Tia Lurie: I was incredibly excited . . . At the rally and the march
I felt so good about everything. We were all there for such a good cause,
I felt like I was really doing something. As one of the speakers, Susan
Sarandon, said, We are putting our stake in peace! And I can
tell you truthfully that my stake will stay for a very long time.
Darcy Hennessey: It was truly overwhelming to see so many people
come together like that. I hope to do more things like this in the future,
now that I know how fulfilling they can be, and how much these protests
can change the course of history.
Lila Jensen: There were times when everyone was smiling and I felt
overwhelmingly happy. You could almost forget the threat of war due to
the beauty of belonging.
Anna Kyaio: Today showed me that I could really change the world.