Peace protesters pack Paepcke Park

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Hundreds gathered in Paepcke Park to protest a possible war with Iraq Saturday afternoon February 1, 2003. Among the key speakers against any military action with the middle eastern country were Hunter S. Thompson, Pitkin County Bob Braudis, vietnam veteran and former Aspen Mayor Rachel Richards. Paul Conrad photo.

The musician strummed her guitar just once before pausing briefly and calling attention to her lapel.

Pinned to her shirt was a ceramic peace sign she had received as a gift in the late 1960s. The pin, the woman noted, was made by a friend after his return from a lengthy military stint in Vietnam.

The woman retrieved the pin, as well as her memories of friends and families ravaged by the Vietnam War, for her appearance at a peace rally in Paepcke Park on Saturday.

As she launched into her song – which was another remnant of the ’60s anti-war movement – she cautioned against a possible conflict with Iraq that could recall one of the most turbulent times in U.S. history.

That sentiment was reflected at the peace rally, organized by the Roaring Fork Peace Coalition.

Though crowd counts by rally organizers and law enforcement agents varied, the Roaring Fork Peace Coalition quickly ran out of of pro-peace racing bibs – the group printed 1,000 ski bibs with the phrase “Make snow, not war” – early that afternoon. Organizers began directing protesters to a nearby booth to create their own protest posters instead.

In addition, a delegation from Telluride, mostly from an organization dubbed This Republic Can, doled out an additional 200 bibs upon its arrival to the park early Saturday afternoon.

Rally organizers seemed to be successful in their attempt to pull in spectators from the weekend’s highly attended X Games.

Protesters – some bearing homemade signs and wearing a variety of costumes – stationed themselves at every corner of the Main Street park, greeting RFTA bus riders and passers-by with their anti-war message.

Some traveled to Aspen to support the larger cause of convincing President Bush to avoid war in Iraq. Others seemed focused on changing local attitudes on the subject.

Basalt resident Jerome Osentowski said he went to the rally to convince the valley’s communities to take a stand against a possible war. He noted that many Colorado communities, including Boulder and Telluride, as well as larger U.S. cities have passed anti-war resolutions in the last few months.

“If Chicago can do it, and San Francisco can do it, why can’t Aspen? Why can’t Basalt?” Osentowski asked.

Though valley communities have yet to pass such an ordinance, a number of local politicians turned out to support the rally. Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud joined representatives of the Basalt Town Council, Carbondale Town Council and Glenwood Springs City Council in speaking out against a possible war in Iraq.

“We should never cease our efforts to work and pray for peace,” Klanderud told a cheering crowd.

Author, gonzo journalist and Woody Creek resident Hunter S. Thompson took the stage just after 5 p.m. for the rally’s keynote speech.

A mostly coherent Thompson didn’t deliver a speech so much as engage those closest to him in a private conversation about the pitfalls of war and the evils of an unchecked government.

He spent most of his presentation hunched over the railing of the Paepcke Park gazebo, seemingly speaking only to those in the front row of the crowd.

“It’s about time we got somebody moving and talking in this country,” Thompson told spectators before ending his brief appearance.

As Saturday’s rally drew to a close, protesters joined for a peace march down Main Street toward the Aspen Community Church. The chanting protesters were met with honks from nearby motorists and shouts from passers-by. Not all, as manifested by a few pointed hand gestures, were in support of the group.

But even the scorn of a few dissenters wasn’t enough to dampen the mood of the impassioned protesters.

“What can you do? Just flash them the peace sign,” grinned Telluride resident Jose Morales.

Tricia McKenzie of the Roaring Fork Peace Coalition said on Sunday that, due to the excitement of Saturday’s rally, the group forgot to circulate a donation jar to help supplement the costs of the event. Those wishing to help the coalition make up for money spent on the park rental – including “terrorism insurance” required for high-profile events – can send a tax-deductible donation to the Stepstone Center, 711 Main St., Carbondale, CO 81623, c/o Scott Chaplin.

Supporters can also visit the organization’s Web site at to view fund-raising items such as T-shirts and posters autographed by Thompson.

[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is]