Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Rally in Philly

I went to the UFPJ rally in Philly this past weekend to hang out with some vets, talk to counter-protestors, and because, well, if not really that useful, big protests are fun! So since there was a caravan from Arlington Cemetery up to Philly being led by IVAW Bus (Yellow Rose of Texas Bus For Peace, driven by Jim “Captain Jim” Goodnow) I joined in with my Bronco. I would have ridden in the bus, but I was staying in Philly until Monday since I was speaking at Moorestown Friends School in New Jersey on Monday afternoon, and that gave me the chance to hang out with my IVAW buddies in Philly and check out the national office on Monday.

We pulled up in Philly as the march was “picking up the links in the human chain” about half way down its route and I snuck in front of the police escorts with the bus. After a while of driving at the pace of a peace march, I decided to ditch the Bronco in a garage, then run and catch up with the bus. I made it just as the bus was pulling up to the rally point.

The crowd was a bit disappointing, but still solid given the weather. I got to meet up with some friends from Veterans For Peace and some student organizers I’ve worked with just before Kelly Dougherty, the IVAW Executive Director, got on stage to speak. Despite having a very sweet demeanor and voice for an Iraq vet, she has a way of always getting people riled up and passionate about direct action, which she did.

I did a couple TV interviews when the caravan stopped in Baltimore to pick some people up at a church, and said that this day of protests was one for the movement, one for the people. We’re deliberately not doing something in DC because we are sick of asking for them to end this war. We the people have to stand up and stop this war for ourselves. Fortunately, I think this theme was reflected in a number of speakers, most notably Kelly, the Reverend Lennox Yearwood, and Desiree Fairooz of CodePink, who all strongly encouraged listeners to step up their game and rise to the occasion.

I was fortunate enough to catch one former Devil Dog who was there by himself and didn’t know about IVAW. He had come wearing his green digital blouse, clearly wanting to represent himself as an anti-war veteran, but having no idea what that meant. We chatted for a while about what he was going through in terms of PTSD and being home with his buddies, one of whom is missing his legs due to an IED, and is struggling with the idea of whether it was worth it or not, desperately clinging to the hope that it was.

Kelly came over, and organized as she is, had a membership application for him right there. He took it and said he would send it in when he got home. About an hour later, our paths crossed again as we were leaving. He had been walking back towards the protest when one of the cops started giving him a hard time. He made the right choice to walk away, but was a bit shaken when he ran into me. I told him it just comes with the territory, just part of the struggle. We all get used to it.

Me, Jim Goodnow, and Executive Director of Delaware Valley Veterans for America, Bill Perry