Monday, August 13, 1984
Hundreds Rock Against Reagan at Sunday Concert
By Joshua Quittner
Journal Staff Writer
2 Photos, not shown here, captioned:
1) Evette Justus, David Crockett Williams Jr. Chant Sunday as part of Peace Caravan, Couple Chant Under "Peace Pole"
2) Rally Coordinator Ben Yamin
An American flag was spread on the ground like a picnic blanket while some of the concert organizers argued about what to do with it.
Fifteen feet away, a pair of grinning young men with shaved heads, oblivious to the political struggle behind them, readied the bands' sound system.
A young woman with three colors of hair on her head and a gold-ball earring in her nose hawked political-slogan buttons and Twisted Music Magazine from a table nearby. And some Yippies were sitting together in a swatch of shade, stretching their muscles and checking things out.
All told, hundreds of people came to Tiguex Park at the northeast corner of Old Town on Sunday afternoon for the Rock Against Reagan concert. They were as different from each other as wild flowers.
"It's a symbol of nihilism, absolute nihilism," howled a large woman as she pointed at the big American flag, that a thin man began pulling off the ground. With his friends, he meekly disagreed with her. But the woman argued louder and prevailed: the flag was not flown.
What all that had to do with Rock Against Reagan was anybody's guess.
National coordinators Ben Yamin, Laura Thompson, and David Whitaker explained that the name "Rock Against Reagan" is merely a rallying cry -- a means of joining disparate segments of the country for peace. The idea behind the road concerts is to swell the ranks of a coalition called the Peace Caravan.
"A lot of the people you see here are part of the Peace Caravan," said Ms. Thompson. The caravan is comprised of a few dozen cars and vans. "There's about 100 people, and we gain some in every place we stop. There's the Rainbow Nation (not to be confused with the Rainbow Coalition), the Yippies -- there is a whole busload of them -- The Alliance for Justice people..."
"The issue," chimed in Yamin, "is that 41,000 people die of starvation every day. This is beginning to be the answer to that."
The Peace Caravan has sponsored Rock Against Reagan concerts across the nation since the fist one in California in March 1983, Ms. Thompson said. If Reagan is re-elected, "we'll continue. Maybe we'll call it "Rock Against Bureaucracy" or "Rock Against Capitalism," she said. "Democrats start wars as often as Republicans."
The caravan moves to Dallas today to set up a "tent city" in anticipation of the Republican Convention. The group is expecting in excess of 15,000 anti-Reagan demonstrators. And the city has built a chain-link fence to surround the tent city to keep expected protestors confined. Also, police dogs have been put through crowd-control exercises and two hundred officers received training in the use of riot sticks and gas masks. Albuquerque's concert was peaceful, however, as groups sat under trees or danced to the music, provided by local and out-of-state bands.
"You see, there's a sine wave of history," explained Yamin. "We were up in the '60's, down in the '70's and ready for the explosion in the '80's. There will be an explosion of peace soon -- but we donít know when."
Yamin is a wiry, blue-eyed 23-year old who bounds from topic to topic with enthusiasm. He said he was raised in Oakland, Calif., and educated, in part, at the University of California in Berkeley. "I dropped out," he said simply. "I didn't tell my parents or anything. When I heard about the caravan, that was all there was to it. This is where the action is."
"Did you see the Peace Pole yet? Come on, I'll show you," Yamin said as he walked to the south side of the park. "Did you know that in 1947, the word "everything" wasn't even in the dictionary? Interesting, very interesting."
Yamin said he cleared out his savings account and joined the caravan. Like the rest of the members, though, he used up his cash. Now, he said, he lives by his wits, sleeping wherever he can, eating whatever he finds, relying on the kindness of strangers. "I don't believe in coincidence -- everything that happens to me was meant to happen."
Under the Peace Pole sat Evette Justus and David Crockett Williams Jr., gently pounding a drum and chanting a Buddhist mantra. "They started doing that in May of 1983," Yamin whispered. "That's their Dharma -- they do it whenever we stop. We stopped at a rest station in Phoenix and set up the pole and started chanting."
He said the chant is for peace. "The universe works by having a vision and going out there. That's what I'm doing. That's what everyone should do."