Rock Community Turns Out In Full Force For Tibet Rally

Perry Farrell, Sean Lennon and members of R.E.M. are among many adding their voices to the call for a free Tibet.

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

independence.

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

call.

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

Werbach.

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

others.

"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

me." "We've

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?,"

Diamond said.

"Now, clearly, thousands of people have embraced Tibet's situation as

something that's got to change," he added. "They are being activists

themselves."

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

performers

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

about the

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."