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The View From Down Here

By Kevin Robinson in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 14, 2007 5:39PM

Music festivals are lots of things to lots of people: to the City, they represent quality of life and revenue draws from tourism; to music fans, they can be a great way to see many of your favorite bands all at once, while checking out new music; to some, they're like a vacation in your own town. But to activists and social movement groups, they're also an opportunity to reach out to people that might be interested in your issues or philosophies who wouldn't otherwise have contact with you.

2007_7_clean_air.jpgWith this in mind, we took a stroll through the booths and tables around Pitchfork, having a look at the groups and movements that think Pitchfork Festival-goers are part of their demographic. From animal-rights to presidential candidates, health-care reform to global warming, from medical marijuana to feminism, the presence of groups representing points of view was felt, if not diverse.

Our first stop was at Barack Obama's tent, where fresh-faced and idealist political science majors were handing out buttons, stickers, and voter registration cards. "This is a great opportunity to reach out to young voters who might not otherwise feel engaged in the political process," one of the volunteers said, handing us several Obama '08 stickers. As we stepped away from the tent, we were approached by a young lady carrying a petition for PETA. As she explained to us their latest campaign (expanding humane treatment rights for commercially-raised chicken), we noticed that PETA had one of the larger presences at the event, no surprise for an organization that has virtually pioneered the modern animal-rights movement, and is known for having creative, engaging, and effective protest tactics. In particular, PETA2 was around in force, the group's outreach campaign for young activists.

Further on, we ran into the Sierra Club, where we signed a petition to encourage the Illinois Legislature to enact stricter clean-air regulations, similar to those already the law in California. Less impressive was the NOW booth, staffed by a few bored looking college-age women and an older fellow. With no real initiatives going on, and none of the influence that other groups wield, NOW is simply looking to sign up new members.

We hope you have as much fun this weekend at Pitchfork as we plan to. And if you get a few moments between bands, maybe you can stop by the activist side of this event and get some information about your favorite cause, or find out about a new one. Besides checking out new bands, you might find a way to make Chicago, Illinois, or even the nation a better place!