1500+ proud anti-war activists from across the country joined hands to condemn Bush’s and Cheney’s $40,000,000 inaugural orgy this January 20. What started out as an off-the-cuff remark turned into one of the best anti-war/anti-administration demonstrations in the country, in what was unquestionably one of the most unique formats in the history of U.S. activism: using a traditional New Orleans Jazz Funeral as the vehicle of protest. We were there to “bury” the war and our civil liberties–and to burn the USA PATRIOT Act.
With a bit of good luck from a beautiful Louisiana winter day of 65 degrees, the anti-war effort of south Louisiana shined brightly on counter-inauguration day in New Orleans, Louisiana, January 20th, 2005.
1500+ proud anti-war activists, from as far away as Washington State on the west coast, Wisconsin in the midwest, New Jersey and New York on the east coast, down to Florida in the deep south, joined hands to condemn the $40,000,000 inaugural orgy of King Curious George Bush and Little Dick Cheney, two men considered to be war-criminals by those in attendance. They partied hard, while our children/troops are dying hard in THEIR illegal “war”.
What started out as a an off-the-cuff remark, turned into one of the best anti-war, anti
-administration demonstrations in the country, one of several “counter-inaugural” protests staged around the nation, in what was unquestionably one of the most unique formats ever used in the history of U.S. activism, that being using a traditional New Orleans Jazz Funeral as the vehicle of protest. We were there to “bury” the war, our civil liberties, and to burn the USA PATRIOT Act.
The demonstration started in “Louie Armstrong Park” at 10 AM, where 1500 “Jazz Funeral For Democracy, A Wake For Peace” pins, designed and made by Andy Lehman, Megan Bronson and Ward Reilly, were generously handed out to the first to arrive. Pictures of these can be seen our our still operating website, an extremely good site produced by Michael Goff, and one that had more than 10,000 “hits” in the 2 weeks prior the the JF4D.
After a few speakers, many media interviews, and generally organizing everybody into position, the somber crowd marched very slowly–also a Jazz Funeral tradition–down N. Rampart Street, led by principle organizers Buddy Spell, his wife Annie, and their daughter Sarah, who was being towed in a classic red wagon. They were followed by members of Viet Nam Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, CAWI of Baton Rouge, C3 of New Orleans, and Code Pink, all anti-war groups.
Behind the lead group came the “Constitution All Star Band”, with the famed TremÃ© Brass Band taking up a position by the horse-drawn hearse, both bands dressed in traditional mourning finery, and the contingent of 1500+ protestors, made up of lovely ladies in black, with decorated umbrella’s (another part of Jazz Funeral tradition) made by Jennifer Shaw, men in black suits or blue jeans, and of course, hundreds of anti-war, anti-Bush, and anti-USA PATRIOT Act posters, banners and signs were everywhere.
To top it all off, a horse-drawn carriage and hearse, complete with casket, was put in position, and off we went at 11:00am sharp, as King Curious George Bush, and Little Dick Cheney took the oath of office, swearing again to uphold the Constitution of our nation, something they have yet to do.
The crowd gathered strength along the march, joined by many New Orleans Jazz musicians along the route. We turned onto Canal St., the HEART of New Orleans, and it’s main street downtown, where even the street cars DESIRED to slow down and look at this proud moment in Louisiana history unfolding before the riders’ eyes. We marched passed Bourbon St, and turned left toward Jackson Square, where we had a permit to set up and have more speakers.
A stark contrast
The New Orleans police, as has been their way since we started marching against the “war” in Iraq in 2002, handled the traffic and crowd with perfect cooperation, which made the entire action flow with ease, and kept it problem free.
Our action was in stark contrast to the $40,000,000, police-state-looking orgy of decadence that the Bush gang produced. In Washington, there were snipers on every roof, a soldier forced to stand every 20 along the main route as shields for our “brave” President, and visitors were subject to several searches before having to get behind metal or plastic barriers for the “privilege” of watching a pitiful excuse for a President ride by, gazing from his little 12 inch window. The scene looked more like an old Kremlin film clip than it did anything that used to happen in MY country.
Donna Bassin, psychologist and Viet Nam Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder expert and documentary filmmaker, came all the way from New Jersey to film part of a documentary, in a continuing study as to the effects of the current political situation on vets, and the effects that this “war” is having on Viet Nam era vets, and we were so lucky that she would do so.
At one point, for one long minute, all 1500+ stood in silence in the amphitheatre at Jackson Square, with fingers raised high in the “Peace Sign”, in honor of all that have been killed or injured by the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was without question the most moving part of the event to me.
The end of this portion of our action at Jackson Square came as Marty Roland of C3 ripped up the USA PATRIOT Act, symbolically burned it, and we then threw the ashes of it into the mighty Mississippi River.
Media is the key
Good media is the key to changing the nation, and in that respect the “Jazz Funeral For Democracy” also shined. CBS and ABC TV covered us locally, and we were shown in both Baton Rouge and New Orleans in a completely positive way. The AP, the UPI, and several radio stations, plus a few magazines, also covered the event, and the Baton Rouge “Advocate” gave the demonstration a half page article and a great photo of our action, and the New Orleans Times Picayune did a piece.
Bob Smith, a retired Command Sergeant Major, and 3 combat tour Viet Nam Green Beret, a VVAW member, MC’ed the event. VVAW member Ward Reilly and VFP member Dennis Kyne, Desert Storm vet, and national Depleted Uranium expert, joined Kathy Kelly of Voices In The Wilderness, always an inspirational speaker, and Avery Friend, a 13 year old activist from south Louisiana, whom we are especially proud of, in speaking to a very appreciative crowd.
Arthur Morrell, also a Special Forces Green Beret veteran, and Louisiana Senatorial candidate, and the ONLY anti-war candidate, spoke also, as did Mabili Ajani Oguniyi, whose name translates to “the East Wind Warrior”,a man who has spent the last decade as a radio revolutionary in Tampa Bay, Florida. Also speaking were Mike Howell and Marty Roland of the New Orleans anti-war group C3.
Native-American Grey Hawk, of the Louisiana Houma Tribe, gave a beautiful prayer in his native tongue, and we were particularly proud that many Native Americans would join us this day in solidarity against those that would destroy our nation. Their presence did us great honor.
Other bands that marched, and/or played at the street party following the Jazz Funeral, all of which were organized by Marine VN-era vet, and certified-madman, “Sheik” Richardson, included Kostini, Paula & The Pontiacs, Panorama Brass Band, Leigh “Little Queenie” Harris, God’s Little Toy, Otra, Christina Friis And Sam Price Price, and finally, The Constitution Brass Band.
Much thanks to all of them, and to the more than 40 groups that officially endorsed the event, including Code Pink, Raging Granny’s, Pax Christi, Artist’s & Writers For Peace, Noomoon Tribe, and United For Peace & Justice, to name just a few.
CPR for the Bill of Rights
We ended this fine day in true New Orleans fashion, with a street party that lasted until late in the evening, at the Blue Nile club, which was one of several that had offered their clubs to us, and they opened at noon to the delight of all that attended.
I only wish that ALL anti-war citizens could have been in attendance, because peace and love, in the name of sanity, and with a sense of urgency in trying to save our nation, ruled this day. It was only a success because enough citizens of this country still care enough to stand up for what is right, something that made all that were there feel very good inside.
My apologies to the MANY that helped us organize, that are not mentioned here, as our media coverage, our website, and our overall organizing in getting the word out, was exemplary, and is what made this event one of the best ever in our continuing efforts to end this madness in the Middle East. We have our work cut out for us.
The Constitution and Bill of Rights might not be dead, but they need CPR now, or the next “Jazz Funeral For Democracy” might be sooner than we believe, and for real!
PEACE NOW! TROOPS HOME NOW!
Author: Ward Reilly
News Service: theExperiment