OC students march for peace
“It was a very exciting time at Oberlin,” said Russ Vernon-Jones OC ’69, reminiscing to current students about the anti-Vietnam war movement that set the tone for the college back in the days when hippies with bare feet and long hair were not just confined to co-ops.
Some things have changed over time on Oberlin’s campus. But as 60-some Obies packed themselves into cars like sardines into cans to make a seven-hour trip to Washington, D.C. to march against another war, it seemed clear enough that Oberlin’s progressive and activist spirit is unchanged.
This past Saturday, these students participated in a rally at the Washington Monument and a march past the White House calling for the end of the War on Iraq that began nearly two and a half years ago. Joining an estimated gathering of 100,000-300,000 protestors chanting and waving signs, Obies helped to fill the streets of D.C. with noise and enthusiasm.
“This was my first major protest, and I was just amazed at the focus and energy of the demonstrators,” said College first-year Santosh Prakash. “The crowds and the speakers exuded this passionate intensity that really swept [me] away.”
One such speaker Prakash may have been referring to is Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq who set up camp outside the Bushes’ ranch in Crawford, Texas, demanding that her dissenting voice of the war be heard. Sheehan has since become an important and unifying figure in the anti-war movement.
“My good friends in the media aren’t doing their jobs,” Sheehan boomed into a microphone to a captivated audience. “Congress isn’t doing its job. Bush isn’t doing his job.”
She continued, “We are here. A mass of people to show the government, the media, and America, that we won’t stop until all of our troops are home. You got me out of the ditch to our national’s capital. We mean business, George W. Bush!”
The rally ended and the Obies prepared to join the march, but not before two Oberlin graduates had the chance to notice the large banner from past protests displaying the words “Oberlin for Peace and Justice.” They immediately rushed over to congratulate their alma mater’s contingency for making the long trip.
“The thing that I find so exciting is that this particular anti-war movement has a racial, class, and age mix,” said Vernon-Jones. “Our parents didn’t come to the demonstrations [against the Vietnam War]; I came here today with my son.”
Mo Katz OC ’94 also recalled her time at Oberlin, not as an anti-war protestor but as an activist with Students United for Reproductive Freedoms.
“Coming to this event has reminded me of the person I was while at Oberlin. It’s gotten me connected with certain values, and some of the activities I was involved in as a college student,” Katz said.
Many marched behind the Oberlin banner, chanting as a unit representing the College. Others dispersed and could be recognized sitting on the curbs of streets cheering their friends and fellow-protestors onward. One group of students put on a political performance piece in which they wore Bush masks and dressed up as the seven dwarfs—Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy, etc.—with shirts reading “The Many Faces of W.”
“Our Bush costumes garnered either one of two responses: shock and fear, or laughter,” said College senior Coriana Close, the organizer of the performance. “The most satisfying part was when the protest went past a group of pro-war protestors. We got the chance to really live up to our characters by saying things like, ‘thanks for coming out to support me,’ and ‘bomb those bitches and babies,’ and ‘more blood for oil.’”
Despite the energy and optimism on the streets, at the end of the day, many were left unsure as to how much of an impact the event would actually have.
“For me, it was a lot like Election Day 2004 when I did Get Out The Vote work for John Kerry. When I was in the middle of the action, I could see the effect that we were having on the people around us, but ultimately we didn’t get the results we had been hoping for and working so hard for,” College sophomore Aubrey Woolverton remarked.
“Now, I’m dismayed to find how little the media has covered the protest, both locally and internationally.”
But College junior Angad Singh, who spent the summer interning with United for Peace and Justice, one of the leading organizers of the march, offered an albeit subdued butultimately hopeful stance.
“I think that a lot of people are naïve and think that one
demonstration like this will significantly impact foreign policy,” he
said. “However, this is merely a pinprick in the inflated bubble of
American hegemony which will not deflate unless these pinpricks are varied,
numerous, and precise.”