Peace rally draws crowds from North Shore, Truckee | SierraSun.com

Peace rally draws crowds from North Shore, Truckee

Megan Feldman

Despite relentless wind and sleet, over 100 people gathered on the shore in Kings Beach Saturday to oppose a U.S. war in Iraq. Bundled in blankets, hats and gloves, people of all ages from the North Shore and Truckee toted anti-war signs and listened to the peace rally’s featured speakers.

“I’m against this war – I don’t feel we’ve given the inspections time and I don’t think the U.S. has the right to dislodge the leader of another country,” said onlooker Patricia Lord of Truckee, adding that she’s not convinced Iraq poses a direct threat to the U.S.

Nearby, a row of kids sat before the microphone with posters reading, “War is not healthy for children and other living things” and “Bread, not bombs.” Surrounding the cluster of anti-war signs in the crowd were several pro-war messages lining a nearby fence. One read, “Support our troops, not Saddam.”

Saturday’s rally was organized by Tahoe Action for Peace, a group recently founded by three Truckee women who sponsored a smaller event in late February. With only around 70 people, that rally was about half the size of Saturday’s, which was planned to coincide with the “emergency anti-war rallies” in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

“We talk with our families and friends about how we don’t want this war, and it was time to say that publicly,” said TAP organizer Rosemary Dixon.

Amidst full-sized American flags and rainbow balloon bouquets, a handful of speakers denounced the Bush Administration’s call to war. They raised issues ranging from past U.S. policies in the Middle East to claims that invading Iraq will lead to increased anti-American sentiment around the world and more terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

“Iraq was not responsible for 9/11. It’s not the American tradition to start a war by attacking another nation,” said speaker Jill Derby, an activist with Carson Valley Citizens for Peace. “It will tarnish our stature abroad, shatter the unity and good will of the international community, increase the threat of terrorism and kill thousands of innocent people.”

Speaker Parvin Darabi, an Iranian activist living in Truckee who lectures nationally on human rights in Islamic countries, highlighted the irony of U.S. government support for Saddam Hussein during the 1980s and questioned U.S. legitimacy as a champion of democracy and human rights in Iraq and around the world.

Darabi said that by permitting the execution of mentally retarded people and balking at international human rights treaties, the U.S. has much in common with countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“We’re talking so much about democracy in Iraq – why not democracy in America?” she asked, sparking cheers from the crowd.

The next speaker also rejected President Bush’s stated intentions to bring freedom to Iraq, questioning the president’s widely reported religious mandate.

“When the rush to war is justified as `bringing liberty, God’s gift to humanity,’ to the Middle East, I am outraged,” said Methodist minister John Foster of Kings Beach. “For years we haven’t cared about the peoples of the Middle East.to imply that we’re doing God’s work in going to war is not acceptable.”

Washoe tribe members from the Carson Valley also disputed the notion of war in the name of democracy, recalling the subjugation and near extinction of Native Americans in the name of salvation. Three Washoe children, one beating a drum, sang a song in their native tongue about living together in harmony.

Many at the rally expressed concern that the U.S., in taking a hard line against Iraq, is recklessly unraveling international alliances and diplomacy that took decades to build.

Dick Munday of Truckee, waving a large blue flag bearing the dove of peace, emphasized the importance of the United Nations in a post-cold-war world. He said he’d “be much more inclined to believe there’s some validity to Bush’s claims” if the UN endorsed a U.S.-led attack. Others said they oppose an invasion either way.

Though the gathering’s theme was protest, the mood Saturday afternoon was almost cheerful. The group that turned out in spite of the weather seemed relieved at a chance to express their opinions.

“I’m here to have my voice be heard, to let people know they’re not alone,” said Doug Mahrer, juggling two signs. One read, “Change the regime at home.”

Truckee Town Councilwoman Beth Ingalls – the only elected official present – encouraged people to continue to speak out. “I’m here to listen to you guys,” she said into the microphone. “Keep this action up and make your voices heard.”