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I attended last night's protest at the Federal Building, but I left before they swarmed Lake Shore Drive. Friends of mine in the Iraq Peace Pledge movement said police arrested 834. I didn't realize when I left just how massive the protest was going to be.

I can't decide which of last night's events would have been more fun -- peacefully shutting down major traffic arteries in pursuit of an antiwar agenda, or socializing with some of the foxiest lady bloggers in Chicago. I chose the latter, but if I had known the former was about to happen, I would have been even more torn. Anyway, several of us foxy lady bloggers spent the evening at Aion drinking tea, smearing jam on our crumpets and having pillow fights in our underwear.

But this morning, it was back to the real world: civil disobedience and a support rally at the Fed Bldg. I'm not ready to get arrested, so I went to show support. To kick off the morning's festivities, several graying peaceniks took to the makeshift stage, one strumming an acoustic guitar. I rolled my eyes when they cried out, "Let's start with a song!" thinking, Oh, come on, American Left! This is why we are mocked! The Sixties are over!

So I was shocked when, to the strains of "I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield/Down by the riverside," tears welled in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. It was so sudden, so unbidden. But something about voices united in song -- even overdone protest songs -- gets to me. I fumbled in my pocket for tissues and, despite myself, sang along.

What would protests in America look like if more organizers realized that music has more power than chants? I've been thinking about this for a while now, sparked in part by seeing "Amandla!" last weekend. What if we ditched the complicated rhyming chants ("1-2-3-4, We don't want your [whatever] war!") that no one can sustain for more than a few repetitions in favor of a chorus? As the civil disobedience started this morning -- as people stopped traffic and sprawled on their bellies in front of the Federal Building's doors, as the police slipped plastic cuffs around wrists and carried limp bodies to the wagons -- the support crowd just kept singing: "Soon, very soon, we are going to change this world...."

And it felt like we would.

Replies: 2 Confessions

Aion was indeed a fun time, but I do really wish I had been there last night to take over the drive. Oh well.

As for "Down by the riverside," it's a strong song. When I was very young, my dad and I went to a hippie church where the services were 90% singing songs. Down by the riverside is one that we sang, to this day it still tugs at my heart.

j3s @ 03/21/2003 11:05 AM CST


I am not (it may be unnecessary to note) a religious person. But hearing a full gospel choir do "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" makes me weep like an infant.

amyc @ 03/21/2003 01:12 PM CST


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