Saturday, 15 August 2009

Greenpeace: How a Group of Ecologists, Journalists and Visionaries Changed the World

By Rex Weyler

In the summer of 1968, Cummings and McLeod were arrested and charged with criminal libel for awarding a Pontius Pilate Certificate to Judge Lawrence Eckhardt, who had convicted poet and "provisional mayor" Stan Persky on charges of loitering in a public park. The arrest made Cummings a local hero. Allen Ginsberg and folksinger Phil Ochs visited Vancouver to stage a benefit for Persky, McLeod, Cummings, and The Georgia Straight, which faced obscenity and libel charges. Radio host Jack Webster grilled Ginsberg about his support for the radicals. Ginsberg insisted the issues were "free speech, freedom to assemble, and freedom of the press." Webster cut him off. "I don't want to get bogged down in technicalities," he said. Ginsberg laughed. "Into the technicalities of sitting in the park and publishing a newspaper? It's not very technical, Jack."


Folksinger and stalwart anti-war activist Phil Ochs had agreed to perform at the Amchitka benefit concert as well. The local concert producer added popular British Columbia band Chilliwack to the show and booked the Vancouver Coliseum, a hockey arena. The impending concert sent a buzz through the Shire, The George Straight published a concert poster in a foldout, and thousands went up on lampposts and refrigerators. Hunter and Metcalfe announced the event in the mainstream media, billed as "Joni Mitchell, Chilliwack, Phil Ochs, 'GreenPeace' benefit concert. Presented by the Don't Make A Wave Committee." There was no public advance notice of the mystery guest, James Taylor. At school, Barbara Stowe found herself the centre of attention because she could verify rumours and feed the buzz. A boy she fancied, who had ignored her all year, now hit on her for the latest news. Greenpeace was cool.

The concert was a sellout, the biggest counterculture event of the year. Phil Ochs, the senior pacifist artist at 31, opened the show and spoke most directly to the raison d'etre of the evening with his "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore."

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