Students, anti-war groups rally for peace, against military action

by Shira Kantor

Marking the National Day of Protest Against the War and for Justice, several anti-war groups and individuals held rallies and conferences Thursday denouncing potential military strikes on Afghanistan.

Initiated by the Socialist Alternative, a peace rally on the Northrop plaza grew to include approximately 150 people, where speeches, poetry readings and chanting told of opposition to forcefully combatting terror.

“Violence for any reason is wrong,” said College of Liberal Arts student Will Conley. “Retaliation is violence, I don’t care what your reason is.”

Conley later read a beat-style poem he wrote in response to the events of the past week and a half, calling President George W. Bush “malleable” and comparing the war to “a high-level mafia poker game.”

Several other speakers addressed the sign-toting crowd, covering topics such as U.S. foreign policy, protection of civil liberties, the funding of war efforts with social services monies, and racism.

But despite national anti-war rallies, the feeling that terrorist attacks require a more tangible response remains in other citizens.

Nate Cherveny, a junior in the Carlson School of Management, said something has to be done regarding Osama bin Laden – the United States’ prime suspect in the attacks – and the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Cherveny said he doesn’t support killing innocent people, but if military force is necessary to bring bin Laden out of power, he would support a military effort.

Most speakers agreed the attacks warranted some reaction but cautioned against fear-mongering and restricting citizens’ rights.

Many protesters called the FBI and CIA hypocritical, saying U.S. intelligence and policies foster – and even sponsor – terrorism and violence.

Gregory Scott attended the hour-long rally because he said he has recently started to question the nation’s desire for retribution after the New York and Washington, D.C., attacks.

“All I’ve been hearing for the last week are gung-ho war chants,” he said. “I just really hope we don’t become as barbaric as the people who attacked us.”

Scott said the United States should take the initiative to set up a world court or tribunal to address terrorism instead of retaliating with military force.

Philip Locker, a Socialist Alternative member, said the United States “consciously whipped up this hysteria” that is promoting fear and hatred.

“We’re not going to allow Arabs and Muslims to be scapegoated,” he said, calling for an end to the physical violence and harassment to which Muslims have recently been exposed across the nation.

Earlier in the day, several Twin Cities peace organizations met in a panel discussion at St. Martin’s Table in Minneapolis to decry calls for military action.

The groups in attendance included Women Against Military Madness, the Anti-War Committee, Minnesota Jews for a Just Peace, and American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Panelists focused on three issues: U.S. foreign policy, the protection of Arab Americans and Muslims and employing legal and judicial systems to deal with terrorism.

Lenief Heimstead, a member of Friends for a Non-Violent World, said he fears the recent terrorist attacks will serve as an excuse to step up military initiatives.

Anti-War Committee member Rick Jacobs, who also spoke at the Northrop rally, agreed with Heimstead but said the government can expect much opposition from grassroots organizations such as his.