March 19, 2007

Report on the March 18 Protest in Duluth

Over 250 people marched through downtown Duluth, Minnesota on Sunday. Protesters called on Congress to stop funding the war in Iraq and bring the troops home now.

People attending the protest came from all age groups and all walks of life. Chants of “Support the troops, bring them home!” and “What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!” rang out on Superior Street, as spirited marchers made their way from the Minnesota Power Plaza to the Civic Center. Protesters rallied there and were addressed by several fiery speakers. The rally was MC’d by Carl Sack of the Northland Anti-War Coalition.

The first speaker, Iraqi-American Dr. Sabah Alwan, graphically outlined the damage that has been done to Iraq, “a beautiful country,” he said. He drove home how much the U.S. occupation of Iraq has contributed to recruitment of anti-American fighters throughout the Islamic world.

City Councilor Russ Stewart next spoke about the anti-war resolution recently passed by a 6-2 vote in Duluth City Council. He attributed the victory for anti-war activists to grassroots efforts and their willingness to work with elected officials such as himself. He noted the commitment people have to ending the war, and surveyed the crowd to show that many participants had also protested against the invasion four years ago.

Local artist Dave Hopkins gave the rally flavor and kept participants upbeat by leading the crowd in some musical chanting.

The next speaker was Melissa Helman, a junior at Northland College who was arrested for trespassing onto Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia during a protest against the U.S. Army School of the Americas. She spoke about the connections between the war and U.S. foreign policy, which has affected Latin America as well. She told those gathered to work for social justice and against U.S. interference in other countries throughout the world.

Local peace and social justice activist Michelle Naar-Obed addressed the crowd with information about the current spending bill going through Congress. She told protesters that the current supplemental budget bill, sponsored by Rep. Dave Obey, should be voted down because stopping the war requires that no more money be allocated for it. The Lee Amendment, which would require the money to only be used to bring the troops home, had a very slim chance of passing if the bill passed, she said. She noted that Rep. Jim Oberstar, who represents Duluth, has not given a definite answer which way he will vote, but told her by phone that he is “against funding the war.”

The final speaker was Mike Rogge, a member of Socialist Action. He gave a rousing speech calling for an end to U.S. imperialism.

The rally ended with the traditional “We’ll Be Back!” clap chant. Indeed, participants seemed to leave the rally in the mood to act.

The event was widely covered by the local media. TV Channel 10, Channel 6 and Channel 3 all covered the rally prominently in their Sunday evening news programs. The Duluth News Tribune ran a prominent article in the March 19 edition of their paper. There were also reporters at the rally from the Labor World, Socialist Action and the Hillsider newspapers.

No counter-protesters were sighted.

The march and rally was sponsored by the Northland Anti-War Coalition and endorsed by Progressive Action, Duluth Area Green Party, Socialist Action, Veterans for Peace, Grandmothers for Peace, UMD Students for Peace, UWS Students Against War, Grandmothers for Peace, Peace North and Northland College NAWC. Information about upcoming anti-war and progressive events in the region can be found at

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