Despite the drizzling rain, an attitude of hopefulness and determination persevered at the downtown Rally for Peace at Vera Cruz Park on Saturday afternoon. Live music, poetry, and an invitation for attendees to come dressed in anti-war and pro-peace costumes kept the mood lively. Speakers commanded the crowd’s attention, among them a young veteran of the Iraq War who spoke of his experiences in Iraq as a translator, labeling the American presence there an “occupation” rather than a war. He pointedly asked the crowd, “Can you win an occupation?”
Once each speaker had said his share, organizer Marcelino Sepulveda invited everyone to take their signs, music, and messages of “Peace” and “End the War” to downtown street corners to spread awareness about their cause. Protesters roamed the sidewalks for about an hour, handing out literature and showing fellow pedestrians how strongly they believe in stopping the war. The rally, true to the tradition of Santa Barbara’s anti-war movement, brought in people of all ages and walks of life. From students to war veterans to highly experienced promoters of peace, everyone seemed to have a different motivation for coming to the rally and for their involvement in the anti-war movement.
Protester Will Parish of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation said he was there to build connections with like-minded people, explaining that the rally “provides a space for people who desire to end the war, to build connections with each other and to build their morale and step out of isolation.” Ken Boehs, a former army officer who served during the Vietnam War, focused instead on the potential that a rally has in achieving the goals of the anti-war movement, such as by raising the political awareness of the local community and influencing local policy-makers to take action. Boehs, himself a former defense industry employee and supporter of the Iraq War, added, that “it was involvement in these kinds of events that changed my opinion” about the war.
Despite the many different motives of the rally participants, everyone agreed on some basic points. As one protester quite simply put it, “I’m absolutely against the war.” this simple yet powerful belief everyone seemed to find solidarity.