A People’s March; But Where Were the People?
By William Babishoff, Staff Writer
It was a bright spring day, Saturday in the Ashland Plaza. There was a protest, the Lab Rat Rebellion, part of the March Against Monsanto; a global collection of social movements which rallied last weekend in 38 countries and 428 cities, including Medford, and Ashland, Oregon. There was a cause, “to alert the public to the corporate overreach by chemical corporations such as Monsanto,” according to one of the event organizers, Catey Farrell. There were passionate speakers; representatives from the Sierra Club, the local Grange Hall, the pollinator project of Rogue Valley, and even an anti-corporate personhood representative was there to stir the pot. Yes, there was entertainment too, as a group of cardboard vegetables danced and sang their stories.
But, something was lacking, an integral piece of the puzzle. The people. Especially, young people. Missing were the sounds of the masses, rising up in protest, and thrusting their fists in the air, jabbing at the omnipresent corpor
ate enemy, who is apparently, just beyond their reach. There were some people there, maybe, 30 or so, but they weren’t overly vocal, and many were wearing name tags.
Donna Benjamin opened up the day with a passionate speech about how “GMO’s have impinged on our valley…our plate, and our psyche.” Benjamin continued, “We gathered here today so that more people can learn about what is happening in this precious valley regarding GMO’s.” Responding on how she plans to fight Monsanto, Benjamin quipped, “My battle plan is my plate and my fork. My voice, my music, my activism, every petition that I can get my hands on, every rally I can be part of, and also…prayer.”
Perhaps it was a case of preaching to the choir, after all, Ashland residents, for the most part, seem unified against the threat posed by Monsanto, et al. After last year’s vote on measure 15-119, the county-wide ban on GMO crops was approved by 66% of the voters, it might be easy to think it’s all behind us now. But two farmers, who grow genetically engineered alfalfa, have filed suit against Jackson County, hoping to overturn the ordinance, or seek monetary compensation. Because of this, the county has delayed enforcing measure 15-119 until after the matter is heard in court. According to Benjamin. “Democracy has spoken, and now the democratic action is being taken away from us.”
But, something else was lacking. A voice defending Monsanto. It may have been part of the mega company’s strategy, ignore them, they’ll eventually go away. After all, it’s difficult to believe Monsanto wasn’t aware of this world-wide rally. Maybe, they felt the community voice of Ashland was too powerful an opponent, or too small a stage. Still, without that contradictory voice, defense of the Goliath, there was no conflict–no sense of battle. No platform for social outcry. Indeed, it seemed more like a pep rally.
It could be complacency on the part of the public. “I don’t think anyone really, really, really wants to have a contaminated society, but that’s exactly what has happened,” indicated Benjamin. But, perhaps that’s all the day called for, a gathering of the minds. People of similar concerns, putting voice to their thoughts, and finding a sense of community. Ashland is known for its community, and springtime: the rolling green hillsides, flowering trees from around the world, puffy clouds, fresh air…sunshine. Yes, too many pleasantries from Mother Nature to wage a war against Monsanto on this day.
Yeah, it must have been the weather.