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Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
From Bonnie Willow

bonwillow3@yahoo.com

Saturday, February 15, 2003

The Peace Rally in Colorado Springs brought about 4000 people together in a city park between NORAD and the Air Force Academy. My favorite speaker was an elderly black minister with a heartfelt style who had been friends with Martin Luther King Jr. There was a tremendous amount of sincerity in peoples‚ expressions, and a noticeable absence of pep-rally frenzy. It was a little disconcerting, though, that police helicopters circled overhead the entire time.We marched to the adjacent major highway, and lined both sides of the road. This went beautifully. Many passing drivers honked in agreement, flashing peace signs, while surprisingly few yelled opposing views at us.

After about 45 minutes, I noticed a surge of demonstrators (all wearing black, some carrying black flags) blocking the 3-lane highway. The police surged back to stop them, and immediately blockaded the highway above and below our area. They kept the highway blocked for about 20 minutes, as we all milled around and wondered what was going on. Most were unaware of the traffic-blocking incident. This happened twice, as the same small group got rowdy (see below for more details).

There was a man near me, wearing all black and a scary mask, who was clearly not in tune with what we were there for. He kept stepping up to cars stopped at the traffic light and gesturing threateningly. We all called to him to get back onto the sidewalk, and he growled at us like an animal. I wondered what drew him to a Peace rally.

After awhile it was clear that the police would not let traffic back onto the highway as long as these people wanted to stir up trouble. Most of us left and went to the other demonstration at the Air Force Academy. The group of rabble-rousers ended up being tear gassed and pepper sprayed. 13 were arrested. They were not there for a Peace Rally; they represented Anti-War rage. I felt frustrated that our clear statement ended up being muddied.

The AFA demonstration remained calm and focused. There was singing and chanting, and a symbolic pouring of cups of fake blood into a large barrel, while the pourers made statements about whose blood would be shed by this war. Ten people peacefully stepped over the line onto Air Force property, and were peacefully arrested for trespassing. This one had an almost reverent atmosphere. For a military town like this, the Peace Rallies received fair and adequate reporting in our papers.

All photos are of signs and banners displayed at the Peace Rally, just before the march to line the highway.

 

UPDATE: February 17, 2003:

Bonnie's local newspaper ran a story on the people who crashed their rally:

'BREAK AWAY' OF DENVER TO BLAME, ORGANIZERS SAY
By Raquel Rutledge
The Gazette
Monday, February 17, 2003

A small group of antigovernment protesters who call themselves the "Break Aways" caused much of the commotion at a peace rally Saturday that ended with police spraying tear gas into crowds and arresting 34 people, the head of the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission said Sunday.

Dorothy Schlaeger, executive director of the commission, said several sources warned her the group -- mostly from Denver -- would crash the rally, but she said there wasn’t much the commission or other sponsors of the rally could do about it. Police and firefighters knew about them, she said.

“That small group of young people were rowdy and unruly,” Schlaeger said. “They didn’t at all represent the peace movement. Everything at the rally was beautiful, peaceful, and nonviolent.

“They came in as an outside group at the end. We didn’t have any control over them.”

The group blocked traffic on Academy Boulevard and refused to move, but police overreacted to the situation, Schlaeger and others who attended the rally said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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