Loring Park hosts Earth Day festivities

by Joe Carlson

People involved in environmental activism, international human rights and even politics descended on Loring Park Saturday afternoon in celebration of Earth Day 2000.
Leslie Davis, who is running for the U.S. Senate, danced with revellers to folk music amplified by solar power. Volunteers and professional staffers from various organizations handed out fliers from tables that formed a semicircle around the makeshift dance floor.
University political science junior Joe Kirchhof was working the Amnesty International booth, soaking up the sun and informing passers-by about the link between human rights and environmental activism.
“People are starting to see this is all tied together,” said Kirchhof, who is a spokesman for the Just Earth campaign. “Even if we don’t all support the same solution, we can all see that things don’t work now.”
Bryan Cole, legislative coordinator for Amnesty International USA, echoed Kirchhof’s sentiments.
“Everywhere in the world that there is environmental degradation there are also human rights violations occurring,” Cole said. “That’s why Amnesty International has begun to team up with the Sierra Club on a national level.”
Although the event brought together such diverse organizations as Earth Protector, the Student Organization for Animal Rights and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, common themes resonated.
Many activists pointed to the Highway 55 protest as one common thread between the groups. A 15-foot-tall blue and red teepee — a relic from the former protest encampment — rose above the scene, serving as a visual centerpiece for the Loring Park festivities.
Wendy Underwood, the Twin Cities field representative for Amnesty International USA, pointed to the much-debated re-route protest as an example of how human rights abuses are often committed against environmental activists.
“And that happened in America,” she said. “Just imagine what happens in Northern Africa or Russia.”
Davis, an Independence Party candidate and a key figure in organizing the event, was on hand to offer smiles, shake some hands and collect donations in a plastic pitcher overflowing with small bills.
“There’s all these groups … and each has their own wagon, but Leslie is pulling all the wagons,” said Keith Reitman, a representative for the Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee.

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