Calling for Liberty: Political organizations and campus clubs gather at the Annual Liberty Tree Fair

More than 250 years ago, Boston patriots rallied around an elm tree to protest the British Stamp Act. Dubbed the Liberty Tree, it would later serve as a symbol of self-governance to colonists before and during the Revolutionary War. While the tree has since been replaced with a commemorative plaque, and the legend disappeared into relative obscurity, it remains to some the embodiment of freedom and democracy.

According to Dr. Robert Harrison of the LBCC Our Revolution Club, the Liberty Tree’s symbolic nature is the precisely the reason founders chose it as a title for the school’s annual progressive fair.

On May 11, several social and political organizations congregated in the courtyard at Linn-Benton Community College’s Albany campus. This spring marked the Liberty Tree Fair’s fourth year in circulation, the first of which was celebrated in 2010. Beginning at 10 a.m., the event tapered off around 1:30 p.m., a half an hour earlier than the official end time, marred by cold weather and promise of rain.

As predicted, not as many students and faculty visited the tables as previous years due to the climate. The number of fair participants had also thinned. In the past, the Liberty Tree Fair included various political and social viewpoints, but this May, they decided to focus primarily on progressive values, Harrison said.

In attendance were representatives from the Linn-County Democrats, the college’s own Our Revolution Club, Veterans for Peace, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Community Action for Racial Equality (CARE), and World Beyond War. There were only four tables, as some organizations chose to leave pamphlets for similar groups to distribute.

While all associations fall under the progressivism category, each one interprets “liberty” in a different way.

Bert Guptill, an advisor to the Our Revolution club, formerly the Bernie Club, compared the past and present to explain his definition. The main reason for the Revolutionary War, Guptill said, was taxation without representation. In other words, wealthy British officials ruled over poor colonists, much like corporations do with average citizens in modern day America, he believes.

“You can’t be free if you’re crushed by student debt,” said William Hood-Douda, who has been a member of the Our Revolution Club since winter term.

To organizations like Veterans for Peace, WILPF, and World Beyond War, “liberty means no war,” said Harrison.

Similar to the early revolutionaries, Graham Kislingbury from the Linn-County Democrats said the group’s goal is to fight against government oppression.

“We’re troubled by many things in the Trump administration,” Kislingbury said, particularly the firing of former FBI director James Comey.

By holding the Liberty Tree Fair in the courtyard, Harrison hoped to “give students a chance to be good citizens and help them get involved politically and socially.” Harrison also described the event as a potential “antidote to cynicism,” which he said is a prominent emotion in Americans in general.

“These people weren’t cynical,” Harrison said, referencing the people taped to the Our Revolution Club’s Liberty Wheel. The Liberty Wheel was one of the fair’s main attractions. Throughout the day, people spun the wheel and on whichever face the dial landed, they had to guess the ending of a famous person’s quote. The wheel consisted of individuals such as Thomas Payne, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, and Susan B. Anthony.

“Without these people, we wouldn’t have the rights we do now,” Harrison said. “You could be on that wheel one day.”

Story and Photos by Megan Stewart

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