Peace march rallies at base
By JENNIFER L. STEVENSON
TAMPA -- Edna Lee doesn't stand around talking about truth and freedom. For her, it means walking.
In the early 1960s she marched for civil rights. Later in the decade, she protested the Vietnam War. Down through the decades, she kept on marching against war, against poverty.
"Where there's a march," Lee says, "I'll be there."
Lee, 63, was marching again on Saturday at a peace rally at MacDill Air Force Base against the war in Afghanistan.
"United we stand, divided we fall," said Lee, 63, of St. Petersburg. "I'm for peace and justice."
About 300 people attended the march, the largest peace rally in the Tampa Bay area since the U.S. military response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Organized by the newly formed Florida Alliance of Peace and Social Justice, the enthusiastic rally drew a diverse crowd from around the state. A two-hour program of speakers at Gasden Park in South Tampa preceded the peaceful march on MacDill's main gate.
"Peace and justice, no more war!" hundreds chanted as they approached the main gate, under the scrutiny of Air Force security and three police officers.
A few passengers in cars headed out of the base jeered at the marchers.
"They do not have enough planes at MacDill to protect them from the wrath of the oppressed people of the world," shouted Omali Yeshitela, chairman of the Florida Alliance. "Let's make them tremble on the other side of the gate because there are peacemongers at the gate."
Yeshitela, who is also chairman of the African People's Socialist Party, said that "this is not your typical peace movement."
"It's going to change the world," he said. "We have assumed that responsibility today."
Also hoping to change the world were four idealistic young men from Brevard County.
"All the people at school said, "You're just wasting your time,' " said Tony Nicoloff, 15, of Satellite Beach. "This is worth it."
He and three friends took a "road trip" for the peace rally in hopes of making a difference. They learned of it on the Internet.
The St. Petersburg-based Florida Alliance is supported by 16 other groups, including the Pinellas Greens, the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice and the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement.
Kathy Kirk, who came from Nokomis for the rally, said one person can make a difference.
"My father taught me nonviolence," she said. "It's a slow process. What I grapple with is will I make enough of a difference, not if I will make a difference."
Dean Mogelgaard, who protested the Vietnam and Gulf wars, was somewhat disappointed in the turnout.
"I wish there were thousands instead of hundreds," said the Clearwater resident. "I hope this is a beginning."
Bill Carpenter, who planned the rally, was pleased with the number of people who showed up. He was touched by so many who came to support a cause that is not very popular.
"President Bush said you are either with us or you are against us," Carpenter said. "You can be a patriotic American and be opposed to the catastrophic crushing in Afghanistan. It's a very complex issue."
-- Jennifer L. Stevenson can be reached at 226-3405.
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