"1-2-3-4, We Don't Want These Stinking Wars!" reverberated off the tall buildings in Duluth's downtown on Saturday, October 17, as a spirited band of about 100 protesters marched through the city. On a day when anti-war protests were held in more than 40 cities and towns across the nation, this spirited band marched to show their continued opposition to the ongoing U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the combined price tag of these two wars approaching $1 trillion dollars, and up to one million lives lost, we need to show that the anti-war movement is alive and kicking!
The Duluth protest started at the Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial (which memorializes three African-Americans who were lynched in Duluth in 1920), where we held a moment of silence of Staff Sgt. Aaron Taylor, a local soldier who was killed in Iraq on Oct. 9 and whose funeral was held on the same day as the protest.
From the CJM Memorial we marched through downtown Duluth, and then up to the Civic Center where we held a rally on the steps of the Federal Building. Peter Provost of the band Clear greeted the protesters with some moving song-singing, and this was followed up by an impressive program of powerful speakers. The theme of the rally was "Fund Human Needs, Make Jobs Not War!", and this was woven into all of the speeches, which stressed what a tragic waste all of the war spending is, when we have so many social needs crying out for funding.
The speakers at the program were physician and health care activist Charles Gessert, Rev. Cathy Schuyler of the Duluth Congregational Church and CHUM, Scott Yeazle of the Twin Ports Action Coalition, Josie Johnson of Earth Action and Eric Blomstrom from Community Action Duluth. And the whole event was ably MCed by Ellie Connolly of the Northland Anti-War Coalition, who stressed the need to keep reaching out to our friends, neighbors and co-workers to build the anti-war movement.
Organized by the Northland Anti-War Coalition, the protest was also endorsed by the Duluth Central Labor Body, Veterans for Peace, Women in Black, Peace North, the Duluth Area Green Party, Grandmothers for Peace, Socialist Action, Lake Superior Greens, Duluth Unitarian-Universalist Peace & Justice Committee, UMD Students for Peace, CSS Center for Just Living, Twin Ports Action Coalition, Workers United Local 99, CSS Earth Action, Rice Lake People for Peace, the Nortland Center for Art & Ecopsychology and a host of individual activists and concerned citizens.
Special thanks to all of our wonderful speakers at the rally, and to Ellie for MCing. Thanks to Steve Wick and Josie Johnson for leading the chants during our march, and to Mustafa Aidid, Chere Suzette Bergeron, Carl Sack, Linda Gokee and Bob Kosuth for being the rally marshalls. Thanks also to Mike Solon for the sound system, and to Colette Knudson and Gary Sorenson for being our press liasons. Labor World newspaper deserves a special shout for doing such a great job plugging the protest, as does the National Assembly to End the Iraq & Afghanistan Wars, which initiated the Oct. 17 national day of action. And finally, thanks to Scott Bol, Peter Krause, Joel Kilgour, and everyone else who helped organize this event.
Coming on the heels of our Oct. 5 candle light vigil to mark the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, this fall has been a busy one for the Northland Anti-War Coalition. But much remains to be done to build a broad enough, and visible enough movement to bring these wars to an end. Towards that end NAWC would like to invite all anti-war activists throughout northern Minnesota and Wisconsin to a special strategy planning meeting on Nov. 8 at 2pm at the Duluth Unitarian Church. The struggle continues, and we could use your help and input on moving forward! Thank you to everyone who turned out on Oct. 5 and Oct. 17, and we look forward to seeing you on Nov. 8!