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Organizers Pleased By Finale Of Amnesty Concert Tour   Print

by Bob Thompson
Associated Press
June 15, 1986

Organizers proclaimed the "Conspiracy of Hope" tour a success as the series of concerts to raise money for human rights wound up before 55,000 fans in Giants Stadium.

"I don't know of any other way you can make a household name in two weeks, but we did it," said Jack Healey, executive director of Amnesty International-USA, the U.S. chapter of the Nobel Prize-winning human rights organization.

The six-city tour, which was expected to net $3 million, was "bigger and better than I ever thought this could be," Healey said.

He praised the "total cooperation" of the musicians who donated their services. The final 12-hour concert Sunday included such stars as Sting, Peter Gabriel, U2, Joni Mitchell, Ruben Blades, Lou Reed, Jackson Browne and the '60s folk group Peter, Paul and Mary.

The concert ended with an emotional version of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." All of the musicians returned to the stage to join hands and sing, and they were joined by nine former political prisoners.

About 130,000 people attended the concerts in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Atlanta and finally this New York City suburb, Healey said.

Although the purpose of Sunday's concert was serious, the atmosphere at times resembled a day at the shore. Young people clad in swimsuits bounced beach balls into the air and used water hoses to cool off from the sweltering heat.

Mary Daly, an Amnesty International spokeswoman, estimated that 25 million people watched or listened to the star-studded final concert, which was broadcast by MTV, the rock music cable channel, and by Westwood I and other radio networks.

London-based Amnesty International, which was founded 25 years ago and won the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize, says more than 4,500 people have been jailed for expressing their political beliefs.

Tour organizers said they hoped to raise the organization's U.S. membership by 25,000 people from the current 150,000.

They also asked people at all six concerts to sign post cards urging the governments of Vietnam, Guatemala, South Africa, South Korea, Syria and the Soviet Union to each release a certain political prisoner.

Ms. Daly said "thousands and thousands and thousands" of cards were signed, including 12,000 during the Atlanta concert alone.

One of the performers Sunday was Irish rock musician Bob Geldof, organizer of last year's "Live Aid" concerts to fight world hunger.

"The concrete result of this is that the Amnesty people would be able to put intense pressure on human rights violators," Geldof said.

"When a government gets a bad report card, they start shaking," he said.

Asked if he thought the tour would improve human rights, Geldof said, "A couple of concerts does not a movement make." But he said he hoped the concerts would heighten Americans' awareness of human rights abuses and government-sponsored political violence.

One of the political prisoners on hand Sunday who had been aided by Amnesty International was Victor Davidov, a lawyer who was accused by the Kremlin of slander because of a book he wrote that was critical of the Soviet legal system.

Davidov, who spent more than 3 1/2 years in a psychiatric prison in Siberia, said he came to the concert because "I'm a rock fan. For us, rock 'n' roll was a music of protest.""I think it's a good idea to make the problem of human rights sound good" with rock music, said Davidov, who now lives in Washington, D.C.

 

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