Protest Drums Sound at Montpelier Peace Rally
February 11, 2003
Filed under Arts & Sciences
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Author: Daniel Roda
On Saturday, Jan. 18, thousands of Vermonters flooded the streets of Burlington and Montpelier to protest the Bush regime’s apparently inexorable determination to wage war on Iraq.
This, in conjunction with numerous other protests across the nation and the world, indicates an increasingly vocal and bold subculture comprised of people of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs.
People are willing to gather despite the arctic weather, their busy lifestyles and their differences in order to demonstrate and to march through the streets smiling, happily knowing that they are not alone.
They hop around to keep their feet from numbing as they listen to the amplified voices of Vermont’s poets and political leaders speaking out against the racism, greed, hypocrisy and corporate interests that comprise the underlying reason for the United State’s imminent invasion of Iraq.
I traveled to Montpelier with four other Middlebury College students, ready to experience what I now know is a new level of community, a feeling of nondiscriminatory togetherness, a scene in which white-haired conscientious sages, otherwise mellow hippies and youthful sour-faced punks stride side by side.
The wave of anti-war sentiment has reached many levels of society here and abroad and has produced this subculture that joins together in song and art.
Hopefully, authority figures and corporate media establishment will no longer discourage us by calling us “slackers,” “apathetic” or “obedient,” and our art will continue to be free and powerful, free from the control of corporations.
We discovered free music on the streets of Montpelier that day. We sang and drummed together so loudly and with so much spirit that even militant fundamentalists, Wall Street crooks and drab finger-wagging oil execs were caught dancing on the sidewalks and hugging their neighbors.
Not knowing what to do when we arrived, we walked a couple of blocks and each brought another layer of socks to fend off the assailing numbness, and also to contribute to the friendly “mom and pop” economy of middle Vermont.
Finally, we made it to the Statehouse and discovered with some shock that we were among the first to arrive. So, we began to tinker with the makeshift signs that simply urged, “RESIST.”
After putting some of these together, my attorney spotted the piles of musical instruments, most of them drums. Thereon our destiny was forged, and we teamed with a regimen of brass and wood to belt out “When the Saints Go Marching,” “Down by the River” and an occasional drum rampage that lit a match under the frozen buttocks of the protesters.
Within minutes the streets were filled with thousands of people, marching proudly and singing aloud for peace, pounding with the rhythm to which my attorney, my advisor and I were modestly adding.
All around me was such a variety of humankind and such a positive feeling between us all, college students and farmers, workers and employers, Vietnam veterans and small children, and even dogs!
Off-duty police officers showed up to protest. Teachers were also there from Mary Hogan Elementary School and Middlebury College, such as Benjamin F. Wissler Professor of Physics Richard Wolfson.
All joined in to experience this celebration of community, collaboration, art and love for one another and for those with whom we share our planet.
The demonstration included an anti-war poetry reading, a Dylan-esque performance by a member of the local band, Small Axe, and even a speech from a sixth grade boy.
His speech began, “I’m scared, and I’m confused,” and it was infused with the genuine common sense that contrasted the militant rhetoric characteristic of our sitting president.
On Saturday, Feb. 15, there will be yet another peaceful demonstration of popular discontent in New York City, only this one will not be viewed as legal by the local authorities.
Yet a choice between silence and civil disobedience is no choice at all, and those among you who would like to experience this kind of communion would do well to show up.