Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader said during an anti-war rally in Marine Park on Monday that 535 is a key number to ending the war in Iraq.
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"It's not going to change until every one of us ceases being a spectator and focus on 535 members of Congress," he said.
Hundreds of spectators gathered Monday evening for the rally, sponsored by the Juneau chapter of Veterans for Peace, that was held in honor of The Nation magazine's Juneau port call of its 10th annual seminar cruise. Nader, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and The Nation Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel were among the speakers who delivered sharp criticism of the Bush administration and called Juneau citizens to action to help end the occupation of Iraq.
The crowd was strongly supportive of the speakers' views, and there was little opposition.
The Nation, a liberal weekly magazine founded in 1865 as an Abolitionist publication, has been holding seminar cruises with high-profile speakers and guests for 10 years as a way of off-setting some its operating costs, vanden Heuvel said.
"We often go against the grain," she said. "We take unpopular positions, so we haven't made money for about 140 of the 142 years."
Roughly 420 people from across the country are sailing the Inside Passage with The Nation this year for seminars and panels on subjects that range from climate change to ending the war in Iraq, vanden Heuvel said.
Phil Smith, president of the Juneau Chapter of Veterans for Peace and a subscriber of The Nation, heard about the cruise visiting Juneau and wanted to provide a proper welcome to Alaska's capital.
"We thought it would be a good opportunity to hear what some of their speakers and guests have to say," he said.
The high-profile guests offered a good opportunity to shed some light on issues that are important to many Juneau residents, Smith said.
"It's a fortuitous alignment of people who have something to say and people in Juneau who want to hear it," he said.
The rally also featured music as well as speeches by local dignitaries, including Democratic Rep. Andrea Doll, Juneau Assembly member Bob Doll and University of Alaska Southeast Chancellor John Pugh.
Many Juneau citizens believe in and support the magazine's mission, Rep. Doll said.
"We in Juneau go arm in arm with you," she said. "We are also not afraid to stand up and speak our voice. We're not afraid to come down here today and be part of this and to speak out and fight for all the things that this country truly does stand for."
Most of the speakers at Monday's event called for ending the war in Iraq. Anderson said the rally is meaningless unless the words spoken translate into action.
"Please remember that patriotism doesn't mean anything, morality doesn't mean anything, without a willingness to act," he said.
It is up to the citizens to talk to their elected officials to end the war, Anderson said.
"Stand up for our country," he said. "Stand up for what's right. Stand up for our constitution and the rule of law."
Although Monday's rally focused on ending the war in Iraq, the cruise has been highlighting many other important issues, vanden Heuvel said.
"The climate, environmental issues, has been at the forefront of this cruise because of Alaska," she said.
The cruise also has given Nader the chance to visit some old friends in Alaska and focus on other issues he feels are important, he said.
"I like Alaska," he said. "I helped lobby through the Alaska Statehood Act when I was a law student in the late 50s."
While in Alaska he wanted to highlight how the 49th and 50th states are overlooked in the presidential election, Nader said.
"No major party presidential candidate has visited Alaska or Hawaii since Nixon in 1960, and that's disgraceful," he said.
Nader said he finds it amazing that the people of Alaska don't demand the candidates to campaign in the Last Frontier.
"You know why it's overlooked?" he said. "They only campaign in the states where the two parties are really competitive. Because Alaska is Republican and Hawaii is Democrat, why bother? It's a disrespectful position for the people of Alaska and Hawaii."
Although Monday was Nader's first visit to Alaska's capital, he said he did visit Anchorage when he campaigned for president.
Nader, who ran on the Green Party ticket in the 2000 and 2004 elections, said he has not made a decision about running again in the upcoming election.
"It's too early to say ... I haven't ruled it out," he said.
Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or email@example.com.
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