“You are the peacemakers. Do not grow faint and weary.”
That was the advice that Al Larson of Veterans for Peace had for the crowd assembled for the peace rally at Paul Bunyan Park in Bangor Saturday, Sept. 13. Hundreds crowded around the gazebo to hear speakers and musicians and show their support for peace.
“By being here, you affirm that those waging war are not doing it in our names,” said Doug Allen, professor of philosophy at the University of Maine and the master of ceremonies for the rally.
Peace was not the only issue addressed at the rally on Saturday, but it was the most prevalent. Issues such as housing, health care, livable wage, education, justice, compassion and hope were also given a nod with signs hung around the gazebo where speakers and musicians took the mic.
The election season could not be forgotten at the rally. Supporters hoisted “Obama-Allen” signs.
After speaking on the connection between working-class people in America and those in Iraq, labor activist Katrina Bisheimer told the crowd, “We can change this disastrous course [in Iraq] by voting and holding our representatives accountable.”
Mary Trotochaud mentioned the coming elections. “We are in the middle of an election season, and it distresses me how little time of the discussion is about a war that is five years old.” Trotochaud has lived in the war-torn country and maintains contacts there to this day. “It will take our voices, and our coming together, to change the situation in Iraq.”
UMaine history student Hosain Aghamoosa spoke about U.S. foreign policy. He denounced the “military-industrial complex” as the true force driving policy. According to Aghamoosa, in Iraq and Afghanistan, “No amount of foreign soldiers will defeat a dislike of foreign soldiers. Something must be done before the region is made even more unstable.”
After the speeches and music, the crowd assembled behind Brooksville native Peter Baldwin’s large mobile drum. Baldwin led most of the attendees on a march toward the Hammond Street Church where WERU hosted a talk by Democracy Now! host and producer, Amy Goodman. The procession stretched for blocks and was subject to a few hecklers – and far more supportive “honks for peace” from drivers-by.
As the crowd reached the church, they were invited to listen to the Belfast chapter of Raging Grannies, an international group of elderly anti-war women. The Raging Grannies sang a few songs before everyone headed into the church to await Goodman’s arrival.
After a brief introduction from WERU staff, Goodman took the microphone at the church to a standing ovation. She first spoke about her recent arrest in St. Paul while covering the Republican National Convention.
While interviewing delegates inside the convention, Goodman had received a phone call telling her that two of her producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, were being arrested. Goodman ran to the parking lot where it was happening and – as hundreds of thousands saw on YouTube – Goodman was arrested after asking police to free her colleagues. According to Goodman, she continued to show her press credentials and demanded to be released, only to have her credentials ripped off her neck by Secret Service agents.
“If you’d seen this, two men assailing a woman, you’d hope the police would be there to help, but this was the police.”
Goodman spoke at length about the implications of arresting journalists and the state of the media, saying, “when you arrest and silence journalists, you close the eyes and ears of democracy.”
According to Goodman, more than 40 journalists were arrested in St. Paul. She also lamented the same model that has led to journalists embedding with military units in Iraq, which she says is bad for democracy, is also starting to be the model used in cities across America.
“While we were being pushed back by police officers, Fox News was embedded with them,” Goodman related, bringing up another topic of the talk: The difference between independent media and corporate media.
She also mentioned the “pre-emptive raids” by St. Paul police officers on both the Glass Bead Collective and Eyewitness Collective, the money received by the city of St. Paul from the RNC for lawsuits against the city resulting from arrests outside the convention and what she sees as the general failure of the mainstream media to adequately serve the country. All of this, Goodman said, “has a chilling effect on democracy.”
“We need a media that covers power, not covers for power. We need a media that truly is the fourth estate, not for the state,” Goodman said.
At the end of her talk, Goodman stood in front of the microphone and received a standing ovation. “Democracy!” she said, with her fist in the air.
Fred Bailey, a Bangor resident and attendee of Goodman’s talk, said, “She’s been giving the same speech for a long time about the importance of independent media in times of war, but the examples just keep coming. We’re looking at a fascist movement here [in the U.S.], and they’re already in power. Amy Goodman helps fight that. I’m Sure.”