KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine -- President Bush may have left town, but that won't stop what could be thousands of protesters coming here this weekend for what's been billed as a "Stop the War Rally" and a "Concert for Peace."
In the works for nearly a year, the weekend of events has been the brainchild of Jamilla El-Shafei, a member of the Kennebunks Peace Department, and is scheduled to attract some pretty big names, from war activist Cindy Sheehan to musical act Indigo Girls.
One big name who won't be appearing: Michael Moore. While the "Sicko" director had been planning to appear, a last-minute schedule change prevented him from doing so.
"He couldn't come," El-Shafei said. "He left for Europe."
Organizers plan to set up two "camps" for protesters this weekend - one called Camp Casey after the son Sheehan lost in the Iraq War, and the other called Camp Alex, for the son speaker Carlos Arredondo lost in the war. Friday night will feature a peace dinner at a local church, followed by the Concert for Peace at 8 p.m. at Kennebunk Town Hall. On Saturday, the rally events begin on the field next to Consolidated Elementary School at 10 a.m., with speakers and music planned. Congressman Dennis Kucinich will speak, as will Sheehan and others. Then protesters will march down Ocean Avenue toward the Bush compound.
"We're asking people to come together in solidarity to end the war and unite for change in America," El-Shafei says. "We need systemic change. We have a government that puts profits before people."
El-Shafei says she isn't worried about any counter-protesters coming and trying to disrupt the rally. First, because Kennebunkport Police always do a good job keeping things safe. And second, because protesters have their own back-up plan.
"We have at least 50 trained peacekeepers coming," she says. "They wear black T-shirts and march on the outside. They'll squelch any conflict."
Marchers will also be warned what to expect.
"We encourage protesters to be peaceful and not engage with anyone who's harassing us," El-Shafei says.
A variety of causes will be represented on the march, from environmental to labor, social justice and healthcare, organizers say. Because of that, El-Shafei says she expects quite a large turnout - maybe even thousands more than the 1,500 who turned up to march in June. The weather will play a big role in that, she says.
"We're praying for sunny weather," she laughs.
And maybe even a presidential sighting. Though Bush is scheduled to be in Texas this weekend, El-Shafei says there's always a chance he'll visit mom and dad instead.
"He's pulled a few fast ones in the past," she says.
Regardless of where he is, though, the march will go on.
"Wherever he is," El-Shafei says, "he'll hear our voices."
Concert: The Concert for Peace will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday at Kennebunk Town Hall. Featuring Emma's Revolution and others, there is a minimum donation of $10 per person to benefit the rally and march for peace.
Rally: Stop the War Rally will start at 10 a.m. Saturday next to Consolidated School on School Street. Featured performers include the Raging Grannies and speakers include Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan. Following the rally, protesters will march to Blowing Cave on Ocean Avenue and then back again.
Post-march: Music and speakers will round out the rest of Saturday, with special guest Indigo Girls playing a short set. A peace supper and more music will follow at the Community Center on Temple Street.
For more information: www.kportprotest.org
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