Monday, May 08, 2006

Ottawa: Cindy Sheehan Event

Thursday night Azrieli theatre on the Carleton University campus, was a buzz with peace activists. The night started off with people filing in to the auditorium young and old past the tables of information. About 200 people filled the room waiting for the guest of honour. Then Cindy Sheehan and Michelle De Ford of Gold Star Families for Peace were led in. Ten Raging Grannies got up in the front and performed two songs for the crowd and Cindy. Jessica Squires and I then explained the schedual of the night, mentioned the sponsors, Jess mentioned that it was the anniversary of Kent State, then I mentioned the fact that we need to remember a Canadian context of Afghanistan, Haiti and, War Resisters.

I then had the pleasure of introducing Christian Kjar a War Resister originally from California. For someone who has not done much public speaking he was extremely powerful. He talked about the fact that its not easy to adjust back to civilian life. Christian mentioned how he just wanted peace and that the killing of other human being was immoral. He also, said that killers go to jail, why should he go to jail for not killing. His handshake mirrored his speech, strong and deep. To learn more about Christian there is an article here, and also check out the War Resister Support Campaign.

After that speech Jessica introduced Dr. Qais Ghamen who read a poem called "A Mother's Lament". It was in honour of Cindy for the loss of her son Casey in Iraq. Cindy was thankful for the poem and gave Qais a hug for it. The full poem can be read on YaYaCanada and YaYaCanada's report of the event.

I then introduced Michelle De Ford of Gold Star Families for Peace. Her speech hit the crowd hard as well. She talked about her son who had died in Iraq and how they had to buy on Amazon a map of Iraq as well as basic Arabic translation because, they were not provided. Michelle slammed Rumsfeld for a comment he made saying that you "go to war with the army you have, not the army you want." She pointed out that soldiers in Iraq are not supported by the government even to the point where they are protecting their humvees with scraps of wood and metal that they can find because, the government will not pay for the armour. After Christian and Qais poem, Michelle's speech had the audience painfully wrapped up in sorrow for what is going on.

Jessica then introduced the prime attraction Cindy Sheehan. She got up to the microphone and whatever tension was in the room immediately went away. She started off saying how she never knows what she is going to say other then the same themes. Cindy talked for about fourty minutes about issues ranging from the falsity of the war on terror, the Harper government getting close to Bush, that Bush is a squatter in the Oval office who needs to be evicted, that both Democrats and Republicans are 'The War Party' and, that we should support the war resisters. She also told three stories. One was of earlier that day where she had been stopped in parliment and told to take her laptop out of her bag. When security saw the anti-Bush stickers on her laptop she was then told to put it away because, its a political statement. Another story was about how she was arrested in Congress because, she was wearing a shirt that said '2422 dead and how many more'. The most heartwarming story she gave however was after her son died she was receiving a lot of mail. Most of the mail was along the lines of 'were sorry for your loss, but isn't it great that he died fighting for freedom' to which she though he didn't die for freedom. Her daughter then came to her with a poem she had wrote and how that poem had breathed life into her. She then recited the poem beautifully. She reiterated that it was extremely important to act and, to act as humanity across superficial borders. Her idea was to camp out either at 24 sussex or on parliament until our soldiers come home.

Afterwards I grabbed a hold of the microphone and made people sit back down. By the way 'green-shirt' it was nothing personal you were just the most visible leaving. I opened the floor up for questions. People who went up to the microphone included Sophie Harkat, a representative from the Voice of Women, a representative from Muslim Presence, Jo Wood of the Raging Grannies, Ric Dagenais NDP candidate Ottawa-Vanier, three members of the Students Coalition Against War, a representative from the People's Parliament, a representative from the Iraqi Freedom Congress, and many more individuals. We ran way overtime, but those like myself who don't wear a watch it doesn't matter to. At the end I yelled into the microphone to remember to act and a good start would be petitions outside. I brought Cindy up to the book signing then got over to the Students Coalition Against War to help people with petitions who were swarming the table. After cleaning up the group of us organizers and speakers went to Mike's Place after a event well done.

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