WASHINGTON -- The steps of the U.S. Capitol became a virtual
rock 'n' roll clubhouse on Monday afternoon, as members of the music
community turned out in full force for a rally in support of Tibetan
The rally -- the culminating event of the third annual Tibetan Freedom
Concert weekend, which began with a two-day, 20-act concert at RFK
Stadium -- drew several thousand people to the Capitol west lawn to
urge President Clinton to press for negotiations between China and Tibet.
Rockers on the scene were fully engaged in adding their voices to the rally's
At one point, R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe and guitarist Mike Mills talked
politics with Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., as Sean Lennon and former
Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic traded business cards and phone numbers.
Meanwhile, over in another corner, Fugazi guitarist Guy Picciotto held a
microphone for a friend filming the rally, while Beastie Boy Mike Diamond
chatted about political strategies with former Sierra Club president Adam
Radiohead leader Thom Yorke -- one of the most visible and vocal artists at
Saturday's and Sunday's Tibetan Freedom Concert -- said his goal for the
rally was to inspire Tibet's supporters to share their beliefs with
"I'd hope that people have a voice in issues such as this," the singer
and guitarist said backstage during the rally, appearing a bit scruffy in the
shirt he had worn all weekend -- a shirt bearing the words "Just like you and
been taught to believe we don't have a voice," he added.
Concert organizers, the Milarepa Fund, called for Monday's
demonstration as a part of the National Day of Action for Tibet, which also
included letter-writing campaigns and lobbying on Capitol Hill.
"I think the rally is an amazing progression," said Beastie Boy rapper
Diamond, who has performed with the B-Boys at all three Tibetan Freedom
Concerts. During the event's first year, kids were excited by the music,
but many were asking, "Where's Tibet? What's Tibet? What are the issues?,"
"Now, clearly, thousands of people have embraced Tibet's situation as
something that's got to change," he added. "They are being activists
Attending supporters of the cause not only heard speeches from politicians and
activists but also witnessed acoustic
performances by R.E.M., Thom Yorke, Sean Lennon with David Crosby, and
Gobalee/Porno for Pyros/ex-Jane's Addiction leader Perry Farrell.
Before the rally, Farrell said he could envision both spiritual benefits from the
demonstration and down-to-earth results, such as letters and phone
calls to Congress. "Just imagine that tomorrow one thing that doesn't
happen is people kicking each other's ass," said Farrell, clad in a
rust-colored turban and red robe. "That's pretty powerful."
While most of the rally participants appeared to be under 30, the speakers and
onstage crossed generations, as was most evident in the duet by
22-year-old Sean Lennon and David Crosby, 56, on Crosby, Stills and Nash's
1969 call to arms, "Long Time Gone."
As activists addressed the crowd from the stage, Lennon spoke backstage
rally, which he called a "high point in the Tibetan freedom movement."
"It'll come to full fruition when Tibet is actually free and Bill Clinton
encourages negotiations between China and Tibet," Lennon said.
Before the demonstration got under way, Crosby -- a veteran of numerous
protests in the 1960s and '70s -- described his mixed feelings of
frustration and hope in the Tibetan struggle.
"I don't think anyone in our government has the guts to do anything," said
the heavy-set, long-haired Crosby as he sat on a speaker case an hour
before the event.
"But some people will feel that some other people will care about them," he
added. "And that is good."