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Page 18
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VVAW Joins Antiwar Groups on Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young Tour

By Michael Rinaman

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This summer, from July 6 to September 10, Vietnam Veterans Against the War joined other veterans and military families for an outreach program on the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (CSNY) "Freedom of Speech '06" tour.

Tracey Sperko & John Zutz provide information
from the veteran's table at the Crosby, Stills, Nash
& Young "Freedom of Speech" concert in Milwaukee.

At concerts in over thirty cities across the United States (and two in Canada) VVAW, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Veterans For Peace, Military Families Speak Out, and Gold Star Families for Peace took turns distributing information to the crowd.

Cooperating with the tour and the band (an idea of Veterans For Peace) allowed for a new space to debate issues that have recently been pushed to the side. "We were on the margins of debate at the start of the Iraq War," said Washington DC VVAW contact Patrick McCann, "and the tour allowed us to be at the center." McCann, also a member of Veterans For Peace, served as the liaison between the veterans' groups in each tour city and the CSNY outreach program's leadership.

VVAW and IVAW had strong turnouts at many of the arenas, including those in Montreal, Denver, Portland, Fresno, Concord, Irving, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee. During shows in these cities, local members turned out to staff a designated table stocked with free literature, buttons, a sign-up sheet, and a donation bucket. They were also on hand to discuss veterans' issues and antiwar sentiments with the crowd throughout the evening.

The tour, featuring the music of seventies artists Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, was the perfect venue for the veterans' groups to convey their messages. "That's our age group. That's our political base," said McCann. With thousands of members of that base on hand for the concert, the volunteers were able to share information, get the attention of a massive group of interested listeners, and get people invested in the cause. "The tour really motivated our members. They were pumped up," McCann said. "The response was overwhelmingly positive." Not only did the tour stoke the ambitions of group members, but it also resulted in numerous people signing up to volunteer.

The CSNY tour was the first in what McCann hopes to be many similar ventures. "This summer allowed these organizations to deepen their working relationship. It is a growing working alliance."

In the future, the organizers of the outreach program would like to work with another tour; names like Springsteen are being thrown into the mix. They hope to process the feedback from this summer's work and continue to get the message out about the war and its effects.

Michael Rinaman provides staffing assistance for VVAW in Chicago.

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