Cindy Sheehan speaking at last year’s Rally in the Valley.

Peace & Justice Festival: 9th Annual Rally in the Valley

By: Ken Hudson

Be counted for peace at the Peace & Justice Festival: 9th Annual Rally in the Valley on Sunday, March 21, from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., at the Big Fresno Fairgrounds Junior Exhibit Building (1121 S. Chance); free admission and parking.

After eight years of war, troop size is increasing in Afghanistan from 68,000 to 100,000. Our patience is taken for granted by a promise of a gradual withdrawal of all 115,000 troops from Iraq spread out over the next two years. But we’ve heard before that there is “light at the end of the tunnel.” It would not come as any surprise to see that deadline come and go with little change. In fact, the rhetoric we keep hearing from Washington is for a broadening of the “War on Terror” into Yemen, Iran, Pakistan and elsewhere.

Even if you’ve been to peace rallies in the past, your presence is still important. We must keep up the pressure to bring the troops home now. Communities across the country will hold events for peace on the weekend of March 21 to mark the seventh anniversary of the U.S. attack on Iraq. Let’s see 1,000 people in Fresno calling for peace and social justice and to celebrate what we all are doing to bring about a better world.

The Peace & Justice Festival, which is sponsored by Peace Fresno, brings together a variety of Central Valley groups that are working toward a just, peaceful, and sustainable community and planet. Participants have an opportunity to browse the informational tables of these groups and talk with their representatives. This year’s festival is dedicated to George “Elfie” Ballis, who has spent his life documenting people’s efforts on these issues.

The keynote speaker is Kathy Kelly, three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and co-founder of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She gives an impassioned call for action to end U.S. military and economic warfare. Kelly truly “walks the walk,” putting her life on the line on many occasions, including staying with the people of Baghdad during the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Also speaking will be Rick Reyes, a former Marine who was in both Afghanistan and Iraq and is currently a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Rick, from East L.A., addressed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calling on them to rethink the occupation of Afghanistan.

In addition, actor Thomas Ian Nicholas will be in character as Abbie Hoffman as he reprises his role from the upcoming movie, The Chicago 8.

Confirmed musicians are Blake Jones and the Trike Shop, the flamenco group Ibicé, the Guitar Ensemble from the Sanger Academy Charter School and the Raging Grannies. Food will be available, and there will be a “kids’ zone.” The indoor festival location is not the only thing new this year; we will also have local artisans selling their hand-made crafts. And there will also be local providers of health and wellness services.

Peace Fresno is looking for organizations and individuals to be co-sponsors and supporters. They will be listed in the event program and on advance publicity. Their participation will help defray the festival expenses. Details are on the registration form.

Registration forms, downloadable flyers and more details are available at www.peacefresno.org. For more information, call Dan Yaseen at 559-251-3361. Come together for peace and social justice.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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