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The Best 10 Protest Songs

10 Best Protest Songs

For as long as people have sung there have probably been songs of protest! There is something incredibly moving about a group singing with passion as any English football fan will tell you!

Well this is a personal view of my favourite protest songs. I was a child in the late 60's and 70's so the Vietnam era songs were the soundtrack I grew up with. At the other end of the spectrum I am no fan of rap though I know it's a huge body of work a lot of which is protesting modern society and politics, i'm sorry it just doesn't do it for me. Here's my personal list - and I've deliberately tried to make an international list too!

Photo: John Donaghy

Photo: John Donaghy

Les Miserables: Do you Hear the People Sing?

Do You Hear the People Sing?: Boublil

I love musicals but I admit that 1980 musical "Les Miserables" by Schonberg/Boublil wasn't one of my favourites. That said I think you can't beat the great song "Do You Hear the People Sing" which calls the revoluitonaries to the barricades to fight the revolution against the French King. Of course based on Victor Hugo's novel it all ends in tears but I still get tears listening to this particular song.

We Shall Overcome

We Shall Overcome

We Shall Overcome is probably one of the first songs that most people would mention if they had to name a protest song. The simple words and tune makes it very easy to learn and adapt to the cause. The words derives from an early 20th century gospel song - though the exact provenance is unclear. Sometime later the words were added to an old (1794!) hymn "O Sanctissima". The song was popularised by Joan Baez and became associated with the 1960s American Civil Rights movement.

Hulett: L'Internationale


The most well-known international protest song is of course the socialist anthem Internationale, now used by social democrats as well. Not as well known in English - its hard to remember the words and difficult to sing in English it has however been translated from the original French to almost every language. Traditionally its sung with a clenched fist salute. It was the rallying song for the protesters at Tiannanmen Square in 1989.

Dylan: Blowing in the Wind

Blowin' in the Wind: Bob Dylan

The Vietnam War inspired a generation of song writers, the earliest being Bob Dylan who wrote "Blowin' in the Wind", "Masters of War" "Talking Word War 3 Blues" and "The Times They are A-Changin" all in less than 2 years in the early 1960s.

Lennon: Imagine

Imagine: John Lennon

Later of course John Lennon wrote the classic protest song: "Imagine" "imagine all the people living life in peace" "imagine there are no countries " "nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too" pretty much sums it for me - remember this was written in 1971 at the height of the cold war with the Vietnam War still raging.

Pink Floyd: Brick in the Wall

The Wall: Pink Floyd

I loved this song when if first come out - "hey teacher leave those kids alone!" As a bit of a non-conformist I really related - they said what I didn't dare! I must admit I've never seen the video before - and its haunting for those of us who remembered a school system before political correctness took over! It did have it downside! The choir of Islington Green School who sung the backing vocals were not allowed to hear the rest of the song! "We don't need no thought control!" George Owell's vision of 1984 realised!

And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

  • ANZAC Day
    ANZAC Day is celebrated in Australia and NZ on the 25 April remembering a military defeat 1/2 a world away where the ANZAC spirit was born and arguably the new Australian nation was formed in blood...

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda: Eric Bogle

This one need some explaining to non-Australasians. Australia's unofficial national anthem is Waltzing Matilda - a song about a sheep thief being hunted down by the authorities and shot. A Matilda is a swag - something you sleep in when camping in the bush. "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" is now almost as famous, as the original song.

Gallipoli was a the military disaster of World War 1 where Australian and New Zealand's identity was forged and which remembered on ANZAC Day. This powerful anti-War song simply describes the reality of the campaign for a conscript who is maimed during the campaign. The understated lyrics and attitudes "I looked at the place where my legs used to me and thanked Christ there was no one waiting for me, to grieve and to mourn and to pity" some up the traditional Australian laconic "Ocker". It is perhaps no coincidence that the song was written at the end of the Vietnam War which Australia also had conscription for.

US Forces: Midnight Oil

Midnight Oil, a long lived Australian hard rock band which championed environmental, political and indigenous issues from 1971 to 2002. They wrote US Forces in 1981 to protest US interferences with other countries politics. Possibly unsurprisingly the lead singer, Peter Garrett, is now the Federal Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts

U2: Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday: U2

U2 the Irish rock band continues the Irish tradition of protest songs. Bloody Sunday was January 30, 1972, British troops opened fire on unarmed and peaceful civilians in Derry, Ireland during a civil rights march. Unfortunately it took over another 30 years for peace to come to Ireland

Shirley Bassey: I am What I am

I Am What I Am: Jerry Herman

The song Shirley Bassey made her own has always been my personal protest song "your life is a sham until you can say I am what I am". It was long before that I realised that it is actually from the musical "La Cage Aux Folles" set in a transvestite nightclub!

To me the song is all about rejecting what people expect your to do and living life they way you want to - no apologies! Oh and of course I love Shirley Bassey!

What Are Your Favourite Protest Songs?

Where there some songs you didn't know here? Some you'd forgotten about? Drop me a comment below and let me know what you favourite protest songs are, I'd love to hear from you!

Alice's Restaurant: Arlo Guthrie

More Words by Me

  • Lissie on HubPages
    This is collection of all my hubs. I have found what started off as a set of travel articles with some technology has headed off in all sorts of directions and I am having trouble keeping track of them all,...

And some bonus extras!

Thanks to people's comments above I've been extending my musical education and found quite a few more songs that were mentioned! I was born in 1962 - too young to be a hippy! I'd never heard of Country Joe - I suspect it was banned from New Zealand radio because of the bad language! Am I the only one that thinks its amazing that I can find 45 year old clips on youtube - I know there are copyright issues around music but honestly there is stuff there I would never have heard otherwise!

Get up Stand up: Bob Marley


yokoo on September 10, 2014:

do you hear the people sing

Esael Angel on April 06, 2012:

I love the work you and, therefore could not fail to give the hint that I found this video on You Tube:

Wolfgang on February 17, 2012:

as it happens, I just picked up this page. When I listened to "Waltzing Mathilda" it reminds me that my father was a pilot in the first world war (in an open biplane with two seats). They had to fight with the Turks against the Australians, and it all happened in Palestine.

They thought of beeing fair fighters and so they just tried to shot the engine to bring the plane to the ground with the foreign pilot alife. They took him as a prisoner, but treated him well and informed his unit.

The Australians did it in the same way. After the war they became friends and visited each other.

For me there is no fairplay in any war. And that is why I refused to go to the army. I sing and play protestsongs for 50 years now, singing still the old songs - sometimes on the street, sometimes in the train, against war, nuclear power, faschism etc. One of my favorites is "Greenfields of France". Do you know "Dos Kelbl" ( translated by Donovan to "Dona, Dona")?

So you can see there is something going on at the antipode of New Zealand (my joungest daughter visited your nice country in 2005, when she was seventeen, and she went all through the country by herself mostly hitchhiking.)

If you make a tunnel right through the middle of the earth, you will arrive right here! (But maybe it's easier to meet me on facebook - Wolfgang Debus)

my best wishes to you and your fine country!

Baghead Kelly on January 17, 2012:

I spent my youth protesting against nuclear testing and I'd like to think that we made some gains back then. However, selling uranium under the proviso that we (Aust) will accept the spent uranium after our customers have finished with it just beggars belief. My vote goes to Dylan's "Masters Of War".

Peggy Jensen on January 14, 2012:

You HAVE TO include WAR PIGS by Black Sabbath!

Death_from_above on November 27, 2011:

I was kinda sad to not see any Rise Against or Rage Against the Machine on here.

Burrowing Owls on October 19, 2011:

A protest song for the Youtube/Occupy Wall St. generation:

Lucas on July 14, 2011:

How could you forget "The Eve of Destruction"!

Mike Mills on April 05, 2011:

Joan Baez - The night they drove old dixie down

Katherine on April 04, 2011:

The first Aussie protest song you thought of was "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda"?(Which is an excellent song, and one I love very much). The one that would come first to my mind is Redgum's "I was only 19"? Or any of their other stuff, for that matter

Rosella Jibson on March 31, 2011:

I recently had to write about protest songs for my Humanity class in college. I have always liked the songs. I was lacking the information needed for class. I want to "Thank you" for the extensive information. It made may written paper more substantive. I learned a lot that I did not know and realized the true meanings behind the written words of the music. Keep up the good work. I will be visiting this site more often. Until next time, Rosella

Charlie on March 24, 2011:

Any of about 40 songs by Phil Ochs. I'm particularly partial to his song, "Crucifiction."

Bob on March 21, 2011:

Where is Rage Against The Machine?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

jojobo on March 10, 2011:

Countless protest conscious raising songs have been made played and loved. Check out the new camapign album 'Who's Conpiracy' created to right a wrong of 24 building workers in the UK who were jailed or fined in 1973. Or for a pacy excellent 'pop' protest Tracy Chapmans 'Sub City' (Crossroads)asking 'please give the President my honest regards for disregarding me' superb

Asif Sadiq on February 03, 2011:

oooops you've missed another one .... a reggae classic.

Vietnam by Jimmy Cliff, also we gotta get outta this place i suppose. More recent stuff to consider is Common People by Pulp. It won an Ivor Novello award and is a wonderfully witty song. Ghost town by the specials(during the UK recession of the 80s) and of course their most famous song "free Nelson Mandela"

have a listen to them they're pretty good

asif sadiq on February 02, 2011:

masters of war -Bob Dylan has to be in there....

Sign O the times by prince, with the immortal line "sister killed he baby cause she couldn't afford to feed it and we're sending people to the moon"

Falana Fray on January 30, 2011:

You're list is incomplete with Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up".

peter on December 17, 2010:

I work for a small indie record company that has just released Nockford's Leviathan (you can get the CD on Amazon or hear it at It's a 14 track protest/concept album - taking on global warming, oppressive government and even the gods! See what you think: we love it!

Chinemere onuekwusi on December 08, 2010:

What of reggae legend and rasta maestro Bob Nesta Marley "REDEMPTION SONG"?

This song contains lyrics that brought out the fighting spirit in many black South Africans during the unfortunate Apartheid era.

His other lyrics like "BUFFALO SOLDIER" Can also be included in this list.

Eric on November 28, 2010:

I quit HS as a protest to brainwashing kids. I'm self-educated and a performer. One does not need most of the garbage taught in schools - Do it YOURSELF!!!

Mentalist acer from A Voice in your Mind! on November 21, 2010:

I'd like to suggest,Pink Floyd's,Pigs track from their Annimals Album,Lissie,protesting greed in the White House;)

moris on October 29, 2010:

eve of destruction by barry mcguire

wozer wozer wozer on October 20, 2010:

I believe buffalo soldier should have been on there you noob

Karen A Szklany from New England on October 13, 2010:

Great hubs! I am familiar with most of these songs, and all of the songs of Les Miserables always manage to raise hairs on the back of my well as "We Shall Overcome." Thanks for writing this hub!

Jaynie2000 on October 13, 2010:

I have always liked Tesla's version of Signs.

Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs...blocking up the scenery...breakin' my mind...Do this, don't do that, can't you read the signs

Leslie on September 30, 2010:

I'm trying to think of the 70's song where a newsman type person asks questions and the responses are lyrics from various rock songs. Anyone remember that one?

dosters from Chicago on August 30, 2010:

For social protest/commentary, it's hard to beat "Changes" by Tupac

JJ on August 28, 2010:

Nobody's mentioned Edwin Starr's "War" yet? Really?

Donc on June 21, 2010:

Hugh Laurie's Protest song is the best!

Karl on June 04, 2010:

Lots of great comments- please look up Phil Ochs definition of a protest/ topical song

Not many have said it aas clearly as seeger-woody-Joan Baez-PHIL-Billy Bragg-Dylan (early years)

Woody said something like you can be functional as well as decorative--- which means to me sing out while your on the protest rally- start a ralley-a blog- Lots of young people singing but short on action lots of hippys did something but kinda like Dylan (maybe does more then I know) are not following up till their last breath like the ones mentioned above-sorry for the rant I am pissed -just arrested for speaking out / political reasons

Karl on May 19, 2010:

Good topic but No new info here for me.

I am having a hard time finding any god listing of protest music and then looing for it in French is really hard.

So much needed as long as wars exist

Karl Greenblatt on May 13, 2010:

I am having a hard time finding american protest music sung in French or any other language. I am making a CD for the next Tree Huggers Ball June 12th any help would be appreciated. If you can please send any info to

Lex Leningrad on May 01, 2010:

Thanks for including my music video!

Caterino from Greenville South Carolina on April 08, 2010:

Someone already mentioned "Fixin to Die Rag by Country Joe MacDonald- I rewrote those words to fit the needs of the people in today's struggle.

Shinkicker from Scotland on January 06, 2010:

Great Hub.

I would add a couple more John Lennon 'Give Peace a Chance' and 'Working Class Hero'.

Also 'Killing in the Name' by Rage Against the Machine especially considering the campaign to make them No.1 at Xmas in the UK.

How about Twisted Sister 'We're Not Gonna Take it'?.......Mmmmmm perhaps not :-)

Aparecido Lelis on December 26, 2009:

How about the classic or What It's Worth, by Buffalo Springfield

DennisBarker from Newcastle Upon Tyne,UK on October 01, 2009:

I'd go with feel like I'm fixin to die rag - country joe and the fish, in fact almost anything from woodstock era.

Chimerea on August 05, 2009:

Don't forget "I Stand Alone" by Godsmack.

ClickUserName on January 29, 2009:

Some Mother's Son by the Kinks is a very powerful anti-war song that most people probably have never heard of but it's one great song.

Adam B on December 09, 2008:

How About Creedance Clearwater Revival - Fortunate Son

Amanda Severn from UK on December 05, 2008:

This is a great hub Lissie. You have some of my favourites here, especially the Waltzing Matilda one, which has some really poignant lines in it; 'And I looked at the place where my legs used to be, Never knew there were worse things than dying.'

The other war song that I'm fond of is The Green Fields of France (Willie McBride) by Eric Bogle. It's about the First World War' and it just sums up the futility of it all so well.

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on December 05, 2008:

diggerstory I preferred Peter Garrett as a singer than as a Minister - he doesn't really seem to have got it!

diggersstory from #1 Tourist Trap O Town USA on December 05, 2008:

My favorite is "Midnight Oil" and how great to hear Peter Garrett, is now the Federal Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Art! 

How do you get your video dimensions small? I am able to do this easily with my photos but I must be overlooking something with the video. Great Hub!

Thumbs up and a fan.

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on August 15, 2008:

No I'm afraid I think the 60's were the peak of that particular music trend!

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on August 15, 2008:

Good Hub! There don't seem to be so many protest songs these days!

Marcus Freudenman from Sunshine Coast Australia on July 26, 2008:

exatly the opposite of what I share on my blog but I have to say I love some of those songs very much.



trimecks from Portugal on June 10, 2008:

great hub! i hope you can listen to my favorite protest song by Anonimix , a sicilian world fusion band, and the song is "Puppet Kings" i hope you can listen to it. Best wishes!

Tom Koecke from Tacoma, Washington on June 08, 2008:

Steve Earle is a singer/songwriter of conscience. His song Rich Man's War is little known, but is both great and timely. Here's a link:

Mynamar cyclone on May 07, 2008:

I wonder what song they will compose for Myanmar's recent disaster

Robert Winfrey from NC,USA on April 21, 2008:

Sunday bloody Sunday takes on a whole new meaning now!!

Rayno Pon from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 15, 2008:

Great post with the greatest protest song made this hub really outstanding indeed...

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on April 14, 2008:

"little boxes" - see below this box - where I add the new suggestions!

clvngodess on April 14, 2008:

Anything by Pete Seeger and the Weavers.

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on April 12, 2008:

ROTFL 2patricias - this hub has turned out to be a baby boomer get together!

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on April 12, 2008:

Can't believe how young Dylan looks on that clip,  it's getting seriously  worrying. It's doctors, policemen and mums. Thought I was 16 yesterday & listening to Dylan in  a coffee bar in Hastings on holiday with my best friend. What happened? I remember feeling really radical singing along with Country Joe & the Fish but it was serious stuff with constant distressing Vietnam tv news into your living room & friends at college who knew people sent to fight.

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on April 07, 2008:

Thanks Bard - I'm honoured to have a comemnt like that from someone who actually writes music! I have added Eve of Destruction below - I had forgotten so many of these great songs - this is turning into a nostalgic hub!

Steve Andrews from Lisbon, Portugal on April 07, 2008:

Great subject and selection, Lissie!

Some faves of mine - Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire, World Destruction by Timezone and Ohio and all of Living With War by Neil Young!

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on April 04, 2008:

I've added it below Patti - I know all the words to this day! I never understood the "ticky tacky" - until I got to SF and found out that most of the US doesn't build their hosues of wood but stone or brick - so the SF (and NZ) houses look like they're made of "ticky tacky" - it sounds like the only think that's changed since Malvina wrote the song in 1963 is that not just the "boys go into business" and the houses have got uglier! Thanks for commenting!

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 04, 2008:

I like best, The Wall, Alice's Restaurant, and Bloody Sunday (because it reminds me of Ohio's Kent State disaster); but I really like that you shared And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda so that I could understand more about it. Christmas in Fallujah is one I like as well.

I recently saw film footage of Peter, Paul, and Mary in the late 1960s singing for the Establishment to leave them - and all young people - alone. It seemed surreal to see it now. I don't remember any Monkees protest songs, though.

I liked the Smothers Brothers' rendition of the protest against strict conformity in Little Boxes:

Little Boxesby Malvina Reynolds

Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of tickytackyLittle boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the sameThere's a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow oneAnd they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses all went to the universityWhere they were put in boxes and they came out all the same,And there's doctors and there's lawyers, and business executivesAnd they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course and drink their martinis dry,And they all have pretty children and the children go to schoolAnd the children go to summer camp and then to the universityWhere they are put in boxes and they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business and marry and raise a familyIn boxes made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on April 01, 2008:

Thsnks for visiting Wanderlust - I didn't know ANZAC Day had made in to NY - nice one! I have a link for it in the hub bove! I thought about the Marseillaise but decided that Internationale was more unusual and more widely used!

Wanderlust from New York City on April 01, 2008:

Great list Lissie. I particularly enjoyed protest by Shirley Bassey: I am What I am ! But you actually forgot to mention the predecessor of all protect songs -French La Marseillaise !! Also, ANZAC Day is coming and we celebrate it in New York as well, with a lot of Australian food, beer and games - great country! Have a great ANZAC Day Lissie!!

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on April 01, 2008:

Hmmm I'm not cnvinced by the monkees - which one are you thinking of?

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on April 01, 2008:

Hmmm I'm not cnvinced by the monkees - which one are you thinking of?

TravelMonkey from United Kingdom on April 01, 2008:

wot!? nothing by the monkees?

DJ Funktual from One Nation Under a Groove on March 31, 2008:

First of all, fantastic HUB. I don't know how much i learned here but t was a lot.

Have you heard "Christmas in Fallujah" by Billy Joel & Cass Dillon?

I think you should add it.  It has more juice and is more current. 

Dave McClure from Worcester, UK on March 31, 2008:

Yes, good stuff. I'd edit the list a bit, but so would we all. Yours is as valid a choice as any.

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on March 30, 2008:

funny - And the band played Waltzing Matilda was the first song I thought of when I wanted an Ozzie protest song -couldn't think of any NZ ones though!

Zsuzsy Bee from Ontario/Canada on March 30, 2008:

Lissie! Thumbs up...great list I own all on cassette some even on cd and probably know the words to most of them. Just like Uninvited Writer I never thought of Waltzing Matilda as a protest song.

great hub regards Zsuzsy

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on March 30, 2008:

Careful Shirley - it turns into an amazing time-waster!

Shirley Anderson from Ontario, Canada on March 30, 2008:

Good hub, Lissie...informative and entertaining. I'm actually listening to the Bob Marley song right now.

Susan Keeping from Kitchener, Ontario on March 29, 2008:

Very good list. I never thought of Waltzing Matilda as a protest song, thanks for the background

sun goddess from davao city, philippines on March 29, 2008:

nostalgic.... :) i've always limited myself to bob marley and bob dylan for protest songs until i saw your hub... thanks for sharing.. :) great list...

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on March 28, 2008:

OK for you old nostalgic baby boomers - I've added some more songs below! Though interestingly most of them are well viewed and commented on on youtube - new generation, new war, same songs - that is sad. I suspect as lavenderstreaks says there is not the same air play as in the 60/70/80 though!

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on March 28, 2008:

prems4u the videos are all from youtube - just search their site find the video you want and use a video capsule on hubpages to attach the link! Its a huge timewaster though - there is some amazing stuff there - I searched some songs I knew and found other stuff I had eitehr never seen or forgotten about entirely!

I haven't found anything about the Tibetean struggle yet - nothing in English anyway!

lavenderstreak from Seattle on March 28, 2008:

This is a great hub. There are so many protest songs, I think almost every one of Bob Dylan's songs conveyed some measure of protest. And more being written every day, although they're not out on the airwaves in the same way they were in the 60s and 70s.

I wrote my own protest song during the first Iraq war (which thankfully lasted for a much shorter amount of time than this current one).

Fixin to Die is on Woodstock. Arlo Guthrie is also one of my all-time favorite protest song writers (Alice's Restaurant). This may not completely apply but I LOVE "Coming Into Los Angeles".

Mary Tinkler from Gresham on March 28, 2008:

Where have all the flowers....I mean, protest songs....gone? How about Jackson Browne's "Lives in the Balance"? Don Henley's "End of the Innocence". And, sort of...The Beatles/George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". And Bob Marely's "Get Up, Stand Up. Oh yeah...the Doobie Bros. "Takin' it to the Streets".

Wowwww. Talk about memories.

prems4u from KERALA Cochin on March 28, 2008:

Nice collection , how did you collect these videos ?

Do you have any songs that supports protest of tibetians

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on March 28, 2008:

Peter Paul and Mary I must say leave me a bit cold! "You're the Voice" and "Fixh fixin' to die " are new ones on me! 1,2,3 I draw line at - its a chant - no tune therefore no song :-)

About-The-Home on March 28, 2008:

How about Country Joe(McDonald) and the Fish - fixin' to die.

and it's 1,2,3 what are we fighting for.

The Good Cook on March 28, 2008:

Very well done! Although I do think Peter Paul and Mary must have been protesting something during that time! Also, although it wasn't big until the 80s, John Farnham's "You're the Voice" always gets me kind of choked up. I love that song and I have to feel sorry for anyone who hasn't heard it!

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on March 28, 2008:

Thanks for visiting Eileen and Maren - I couldn't think of any Latin American songs Maren - there are lots of course they just arent songs I know!

Eileen Hughes from Northam Western Australia on March 28, 2008:

Lot of work finding all these. Personally Ihave heard of all of them. Great hub Well done.

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on March 28, 2008:

It is a great article - full of nostalgia for me! I am not awake enough to think, but I feel as though there must be some central and Latin American songs as well. Is there something with a title like "Guatanamera?" Good work, Lissie!

Elisabeth Sowerbutts (author) from New Zealand on March 27, 2008:

Thanks for visiting ahmu

ahmu on March 27, 2008:

nice topic

i like all songs

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