Upper Valley Peace & Justice
The Upper Valley Peace & Justice Group is affiliated with the Vermont Coalition for Peace and Justice. As we are on the border, we include members from all over the Upper Valley (of the Connecticut River), which includes Vermont and New Hampshire.
The pictures will take a while to download; meanwhile, there are some reflections below.
More pictures are below.
Some reflections from Laura Simon on the April 20th rally for Peace in Washington
To me, the April 20th rally in Washington DC was an opportunity to remind our government that many Americans have voices that are crying for peace. Even people from one of the whitest states in the country (Vermont) can see that Palestinians need our support. The rally clearly stated that we all need to work towards a more peaceful world. If the call goes out for peace, people will come. If we tell others about our
experience in Washington, maybe they will join us the next time.
Although I have been to rallies since the 60's, I have never seen one with such a diverse mix of people. I have a thought after the experience. Nonviolence training and many other aspects are part of the white progressive's experience of rallies. Wouldn't it be neat to continue to develop the culture of rallies with "rituals" that respond to the new evolving face of rallies? I noticed that we have people of such different backgrounds marching together. I felt some curiosity and maybe even moments of doubt and mistrust because we were so different. I think we should create something like listening tables where people who feel they have different views could say, "would you like to sit at the listening table to talk about each other's concerns that brought us to the rally." Delegations could assign people to meet people at the listening table when they arrive at rallies. Listening tables would be very cool because they role model how we could work through differences when we go back to our communities after the rallies. In other words, it would be great to develop some traditions in addition to the bull horn, puppets, posters, slogans etc. I see a vision that takes us to the next level.
I have thoughts about what a better world would look like. In the world I imagine, we would work towards diminishing the disparities that exist between people based on their class, the kind of work they do, their sex, religion, age, race or culture. Day care providers would be able to afford to feed their families. People of color would have equal access to jobs and education. People who are sick or old would not have to worry about their needs. We would work on the issues that exist between men and women. Families would thrive because they would have sufficient supports and opportunities. We would feel secure because we all would
agree that these priorities, as well as a healthy environment, are more important than economic "success" for those at the top.
Peace, Laura Simon
The following is from Eleanor Zue of the Raging Grannies
Monday, April 22nd, 2002
I must try to describe the trip to Washington this past weekend, which still has many reverberations for me, and makes me want to gather with
people who were there or who wanted to be part of it. All I have to show for it now is rather weary body parts and a magic marker blue "x" on my right hand, put there when I went into a church on Saturday evening for a
concert of peace and justice songs. Also my sign, which hung from a string around my neck all day on Saturday, and which read "Just PEACE". Also a Washington Post newspaper with a picture of the "United we March" throngs
mixed in with an equally large or larger group of Palestinian Americans, and supporters of the Palestinian cause, plus any number of marchers opposed to globalization, the IMF, and oppression of people all over the
world. The Post mentioned the figure of 75,000 people, but there were other estimates, both larger and smaller. I hadn't marched in Washington since the march for the Equal Rights Amendment in the late 1970s, and then
I was in graduate school in PA, so it wasn't such a stretch. It seemed about time I spoke with my presence at such a gathering in expression of democracy.
I heard about the march from a leader of the Upper Valley Peace and Justice Group, Maureen Williams, who goes to our church, and I might well have gone down on one of two buses on Friday night, and come back on Saturday night. In stead, through being part of the Uprooting Racism Task Force in Montpelier, and a passive and lapsed member of WILPF (Womens International League for Peace and Freedom), I was able to join a group of twelve women from Central Vermont WILPF, including Valerie Mullen from Vershire, and Theresa Lever of Bethany Church in Montpelier, an old UCC friend, and Helen MacLam, a new friend who has just joined our church and lives in Norwich. Anyway, this group of "Raging Grannies" (Valerie and Lucy Nichol, another WILPFer are 80) went by AMTRAK on Friday, and stayed at a Quaker house called the William Penn House, located about 5 blocks from the back of the Capitol. I had been told to bring a flowered hat and a long skirt to wear, and that we would be singing songs, the words to
which would be supplied.
On Saturday morning, after breakfast, I started off on foot to the Mall with three or four other women, and we were dressed up in our granny outfits, me with my sign, and enjoying the beautiful spring morning, and the gardens and flowering dogwoods as we went. The main issues seemed to be where to find coffee, and restrooms, and shade, and we weren't sure where we were supposed to meet, but we knew it was near the Washington Monument, so we had a distance to walk. I began to feel anxious to get over there, because the immediate scene was so quiet and apparently unrelated to the rally and march that I was heading for, that it seemed almost eerie to me. Where was everybody? At some point I struck up a conversation with a man whose Tee shirt said "Barre, Vermont" and found out that there had been an earthquake in Vermont earlier in the morning, with the epicenter near Plattsburgh, NY on Lake Champlain. That lent a certain significance to the day, but still things seemed much too leisurely. Valerie finally left our group when we found we needed to backtrack to the Smithsonian to use the bathroom, and she didn't need to go. When we finally arrived at the scene near the monument, it wasn't hard to find our group near signs for the UVP&J group, because they had their granny hats and were just beginning to sing informally near some small shade trees to the right of the big sound stage. I joined in, but couldn't do the motions or really get into it because I was reading the words from my little song book. In fact I was glad to fade into the background a bit, but the crowd seemed to like it. Somehow, I got assigned to hold one end of the "Raging Grannies" banner, and soon people were stopping us to take pictures. Before too long, we were told that we were going to have a go with our songs on the sound stage, complete with drums and electronic sound, and it must have been Harriet and I who led the group out onto the stage carrying our banner. The applause throughout was amazing, and we sang just a short song that introduces us as grannies who have gotten off our behinds to say "No More WAR!", and a long song Theresa had written for the occasion on the train down, with irreverent and clever words to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and one short anti-nuke song that ends in "ta ra Ra BOOM!" I can't describe the high one gets when thousands of people applaud and cheer, but the other thing that struck me was how quiet this multitude was when we were singing. It was all so sudden and so exciting! A man led me off the stage with the rest behind me, and immediately there were press people wanting to interview some of us about the "Raging Grannies". I ducked that successfully, but Valerie Mullen in particular and some of the others were asked questions. I finally got accustomed to being stopped to let some one take a picture, and a number of people appreciated my simple sign. I stuck with our group for a while, then went over to join the UVP& JG, and I spelled Linda Ide for a while, holding one wooden pole of their sizable banner.
Maureen was at the other end, but I couldn't talk with her, and when I was eventually spelled by Kathy Shepherd from Norwich, Maureen wasn't in sight, and I never did get in touch with her. I went up to a huge banner on very tall poles, which read "Vermonters for Peace", and got involved with their need for people to hold up the poles and others to hold guy cords that would stabilize the tops of the poles against the wind. I actually held the guy cord on one side while we went down the hill to muster with people from the Bread and Puppet Theatre, from Glover, VT, and I got the impression we were near the beginning of the whole march. When we finally got going, it was hard to tell where we were going, or what all was happening, but not too far down the street we merged with an enormous group of Palestinian Americans and Palestine sympathizers, and our small Vermont contingent began to have trouble staying together among all the Palestinian flags of red, green, black and white. Fortunately the "grannies" were pretty easy to spot. The UVP&JG banner was behind us, and all around were all manner of signs both for peace and justice, and against Sharon and Bush and then toward the end, on Pennsylvania Avenue, as it began to rain, the chants of "Free, free Palestine!" became more vociferous, and there were some signs ahead of us that said "rearm the Palestinians, Continue the Intifada!" which made us highly uncomfortable. We certainly didn't think seriously of confronting these people, but they clearly didn't belong in a march for peace and we wanted to distance ourselves from them. We tried "We Shall Overcome" and a chant from nearby of "Peace, Salaam, Shalom" drew lots of quiet voices.
If the newspaper said the police praised the peacefulness of the march,
which was also much bigger than they anticipated, it also seemed to implythat there were police shoulder to shoulder along the route to maintain boundaries and order. I never saw many police, so maybe they were along
the part of the Palestinian march that preceded their merging with us, or maybe they were around the group that evidently gathered in opposition to the IMF and World Bank, and then joined the main march somewhere along the
route. The only show of strength I saw was a lineup of police on horseback blocking off the continuation of the street we started on, so that we had to turn into Pennsylvania Avenue to proceed. Occasionally there were men
on some structures or monuments along the sidewalk area who would shout with bullhorns, but mostly they were demonstrators, and not police. I saw people high above us on the roofs or balconies of big buildings, and I
wondered whether they were police or other security people, and helicopters went over frequently, sometimes two at a time. There did at times seem to be the potential for this huge gathering of Palestinians (who we later read came in scores of busloads from mosques in NYC and Chicago and everywhere in between) to get out of hand, and believe me, we were in the midst of them, but never was there any hint of violence. The police reported two
people fell, and had to be taken to a hospital, but otherwise the entire march was without incident. Sometimes the marchers ahead of us would break out in a huge cheer, but I never figured out what prompted it.
Finally, as we approached the Capitol, we turned toward the Mall, and there was talk of disbanding rather than marching onto the Mall. I started to head off, but then felt loyal to the carriers of the huge Vermont banner, so I went back and found them, and was able to feed one carrier, Dirk some one from Chapel Hill, who taught at Putney way back when it started in the 30's, a couple of apricots, which he said are his favorite fruit. He had realized he'd had no lunch, and had carried the banner the entire route, which is pretty amazing, heavy and awkward as it was. Anyway, they were about to set the banner up on the Mall when I left them.
I got as far as the big shallow pool in front of the Capitol, where some people were holding hands in a line, and a woman was urging people to join, hoping to get the line to circle the pool. It never came more than maybe 1/3 of the way, but I joined in, holding hands with a succession of unknown people, one man from Bangladesh, another man from the Middle East, and women from the U.S. including a Jewish woman from Princeton who was very uncomfortable with some of the signs that likened Sharon to Hitler or displayed the swastika, but nevertheless very glad to have marched against Israeli agression and for peace. It felt like the right follow up to the huge march, where we tried to stay with our group and seemed sometimes at odds with some of the Muslim mothers wheeling baby carriages who would stop to tend to their children and get in the way of our banner There were a lot of people, and the effect was of a huge river of humanity of the most diverse appearance, but with a united spirit and a most urgent purpose.
Here are some Letters to the Editor from local Upper Valley residents