sitemap The JMC Name Reappears for Peace (2003)
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One of the key themes in Justin Morrill College's 'legendary status' at MSU was its purported role as the central hotbed of anti-war / peace activism during the Vietnam era. Whether or not JMC was the prime mover in MSU campus activism, the fact remains that war and peace were dominant issues for the JMC community during the College's first decade.

JMC alumnus Charley Roberts recently carried the name 'Justin Morrill College' onto the front lines of anti-war activism for the first time in decades. Come to think of it, this may represent the first time ever...

Charley's invocation of JMC reminds us both that war and peace remain serious topics for us JMC veterans (regardless of our specific positions), and that part of our JMC legacy is a capacity for independent thinking and action.

This webpage contains Charley's report on the January 18 2003 rally in Washington, notes on design and construction of his sign, and photos of Charley and his sign at the rally.


  Charley's Report on the Rally

(Excerpted from an email of late January 2003)

  I participated in the Saturday, Jan. 18 anti-war protest on the Mall between 4th Street and the Reflecting Poll west of the Capitol. It was my first anti-war protest ever. I had my sign professionally made in two pieces, each 44" high by 22" wide. The background was "imperial green" and the lettering white. Carrying it I felt like I was in Spartan Stadium. The message read on one side "All we are saying..." and, on the other side, " give peace a chance." Both sides read "Justin Morrill College" at the bottom. Because high winds were expected, I had the message printed on separate cards so I could sandwich them around a stout pole. I settled on a piece of 1.5" whole round stock 9'2" long. I think it was the only sign in the demonstration that cost $135.

Of course, once I assembled the sign, I couldn't fit it into any of my vehicles, so I carried the sign from Bailey's Crossroads to the Mall, a trip of 40 minutes by bus and Metro when I go to work that stretched into something over three hours on foot. When I left my condo the temperature was 12 degrees F., but the sky was crystal clear and the breezes light.

Along the way people offered me rides to the protest, but their cars were smaller than mine, and besides, I wanted to walk.

By the time I got to the Mall, some people carrying signs were already leaving. (Maybe they were cold.) I arrived on at the demonstration about the time the Rev. Al Sharpton spoke. He is one of my least favorite people, but he gave what seemed to me a surprisingly good speech. Most of the speakers, though, seemed harsh and angry. The crowd seemed to be in better spirits and clearly united on one point -- war with Iraq at this time is a bad idea. ...  

... Departing from that single unifying belief, I doubt one could have found two people in the entire crowd who would agree on all of the agendas of the various sponsoring and participating organizations, which ranged from Veterans for Peace to NARAL. I estimated the crowd at between 20 and 30 thousand, although the organizers announced from the stage that ten times that number were present.

The gathering had a JMC feel to it, especially among those gathered around the Rhythm Workers International, an eclectic percussion group surrounded by dancing people. It certainly helped ward off the cold.

My sign inspired only two people to recall the chant. I think most of the people there were too young to recall John Lennon's recording. I had hoped for a more enthusiastic response, but as my sister Maggie Roberts VanHaften cautioned me before the event, times have changed. Perhaps that was best summed up in a sign carried by scowling young woman with long dark hair. It bore an image in black and white of our flag with the peace symbol in the union. The text read, "We're not hippies; we're rational."