A year and a war later, protesters reunited to pledge their dedication to peace.
An estimated 300 protesters met in Veracruz Park on Saturday for a reunion march commemorating the peace marches that began taking place regularly in downtown Santa Barbara last September. Various organizations and individuals carried bull horns and signs delivering messages such as “George W. Bush: Chicken Hawk in Chief” and “Support Our Troops, Not the Policy.”
At 11:30 a.m., a pre-march gathering took place at Veracruz Park. At noon, the fog cleared as the protesters began to march, winding their way through downtown Santa Barbara, and along State Street.
Along the impromptu route, restaurant patrons flashed peace signs through windows at march participants.
The march lasted 50 minutes and ended at De La Guerra Plaza. A rally followed, featuring speeches from David Krieger, the president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation; State Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson; Babatunde Folayemi, a Santa Barbara City Council member; Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum, Coastal Commissioner Pedro Nava; and Sharon Hoshida, the programming director at the UCSB Women’s Center.
UCSB environmental studies Professor J. Marc McGinnes, walking on stilts and draped in American flags, said he came to regroup with fellow protesters after a year of participation in anti-war marches.
“We came out for a renewal of our efforts, for a rededication – to keep hope alive,” McGinnes said.
Professor Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez, who teaches in UCSB’s Chicano and Chicana Studies Dept., also attended the march, along with elderly Latinos from the Santa Barbara community.
“I came out to put my body in the interest of peace,” Broyles said.
Some participants came to the march to promote other political agendas. Groups including Elect Dennis Kucinich, No on Prop. 54, and Santa Barbara City Council candidate Das Williams were present, passing out fliers and carrying signs. The No on Prop. 54 group led an informational session about the initiative at 2:30 p.m. in the People’s tent, which was sponsored by People to People, an anti-war group. Prop. 54 seeks to end the collection of racial or ethnic data from application forms by the state of California.
Williams, who is running for Santa Barbara City Council on Nov. 4, said he was there to march against threats to freedom made by President Bush’s policies.
“It is important to take a stand,” Williams said, “even when the rest of the country is being deceived by the call to trade freedom for security.”
Police officers helped direct traffic and keep order. Officer Tom Miller walked a familiar beat as he stood on duty.
“This is about my 25th march,” Miller said. “It’s my source of overtime for the year.”
At the rally, Jackson’s speech drew the loudest reaction from the crowd – it was interrupted six times by rounds of applause.
“It is not un-American to challenge war, it is un-American to not challenge this war,” Jackson said as she pounded the podium.
“I am here to re-energize the people,” Jackson said after her speech. “There are hundreds of thousands of people within our community and throughout the nation who think we need to rethink a U.S. policy that focuses on war and violence.”
Ron Paris of the The Platters and Glen Phillips, former lead singer of Toad the Wet Sprocket, performed at the rally. Sound problems cut Paris’ set short, and Phillips sang only one song.
“Don’t listen, there are liars everywhere,” Phillips sang. “Especially in the White House.” By the end of his song, the crowd had dwindled to about 50, most of whom were working in fundraising booths for various organizations.
Penny Little, People to People spokeswoman and an organizer of the march, was pleased by the day’s turnout.
“Today we brought a lot of people back together,” Little said. “We expected a lot less than 300 people, so today was great.”
McGinnes felt a lot was accomplished by the march as well. “You can feel [the effect], sense it,” he said. “The spirit of freedom is alive and well.”