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Over 400 Participate in Jonesborough Peace Rally


Report by DNTC member L.D., of Kinsport, Democracy Now Tri-Cities

IT IS PERHAPS NOT SURPRISING to see that our region's media failed once again to give an accurate account of Saturday's large peace rally in Jonesborough, TN. The event's organizers, United for Peace and Justice and First Tennessee Progressives, used a clever system of small stickers to get an accurate headcount of the event. As soon as protestors entered the Mill Spring Park gate (after being frisked by police), they were given small stickers to wear. By 2:30 p.m., half an hour before the start of the march through the city, well over 400 of these stickers had been handed out.

Despite this accurate method used by the organizers, the Johnson City Press failed to report a headcount. The Bristol Herald Courier's brief report, which mentions "350 people" attending, falls almost 100 people short of the actual number, while wildly overestimating to "50" the number of counter-demonstrators.

Equally unsurprising is the insistence of our regional media in giving equal amount of reporting time to the over 400 peace protestors and the fewer than 30 counter-protestors of the Rolling Thunder gang of motorcyclists who constantly heckled and hurled expletives at the protesters. The Johnson City Press online article even carries a picture of the motorcycle gang as its main accompanying photo.

Despite the provocative stance of the counter-protestors, peace activists refused to answer back, concentrating instead on the positive and dignified message of compassion and non-violence. Organizers and participants co-operated with the over 50 law enforcement representatives, some in civilian clothing, who surrounded the event location. The law enforcement presence appears to have included a helicopter flying overhead at various times, as well as a number of police officers openly taking photographs of demonstrators at various times. No explanation was given for this.

The event attracted a strong contingent of local peace lovers, including families, war veterans, artists, and countless students from ETSU and other area colleges and universities. Other protesters drove from as far away as Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, New York and Washington, DC. All seemed to enjoy the array of skilled musicians and powerful speakers, which included conscientious objector and DU-victim Dr. Tim Pluta.

Following the march through the city, close to 100 activists moved the protest to the gates of the Aerojet Ordnance munitions plant, 3 miles outside Jonesborough, where they chanted antiwar slogans and voiced their objection to the presence in our region of the nation's only remaining DU private contractor to the Pentagon.

The presence of another 15 or so super-patriotic motorcycle gang members across the street served as a sorry reminder of the challenges faced by the antiwar movement today. Some of these counter-protesters were war veterans, and some are undoubtedly sufferers of DU poisoning, which the US military has been using in battlefields for decades. It was ironic to see these people defend one of the companies that may well be responsible for the deaths of numerous of their comrades in arms, at the same time when, on the other side of the street, "traitors, pinkos and faggots" of all walks of life were protesting our government's slow killing of its own soldiers.

Well done to all the event's organizers, the over 400 participants, as well as the MCs, musicians, and speakers who made peace the order of the day in Jonesborough. Our community will continue to stand up and fight back in response to war and injustice!

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