Dear Friend of United for Peace and Justice,
Yesterday, on a hot and humid day in St. Paul, Minnesota, upwards of 40,000 people marched to the front door of the Republican National Convention to say ‘US Out of Iraq Now’, ‘Money for Human Needs, Not War’; ‘No to the Republican Agenda’; ‘Yes to Peace, Justice, and Equality’.
Like most major marches, no one knew for certain how many people would turn out for the March on the RNC. The media coverage of the long struggle with local officials for permit rights had, in the end, helped organizers get the word out throughout the Twin Cities area for the march. Groups all around the upper Midwest organized buses, vans, and carpools to bring people into town. It was clear that this was an opportunity not to be missed. As the Republican Party was beginning its four-day gathering to nominate John McCain as their presidential candidate, we would be on the streets to raise a clear strong voice addressing the war and a range of other issues.
The demonstration began with a two-hour rally that felt even longer. It was hot as the sun beamed down. The weak sound system prevented lots of people from hearing the speakers on the stage, one of which was UFPJ’s Co-Chair George Martin. Yet, everyone was patient, knowing that it was important to give people time to gather before heading out for the march.
A little after 1:00 PM, the march kicked off and was led by a contingent of veterans and military families – some of the people most impacted by the war in Iraq. I watched the march go by, and what a sight that was! People from many walks of life, some young, some old, some from close-by in St. Paul and Minneapolis, some from faraway places – all of them gathered for the march. Contingents of immigrants, labor, poor people, young people, doctors, religious, and faith-based groups and much more took part in the march, carrying tons of great homemade signs and banners. Literally, tens of thousands of people united in their call to end the war now!
It was a powerful statement of the deep opposition to the war in Iraq that exists in every corner of this country. It was a clear call for an end to the threats of war with Iran. You couldn’t miss the demand to turn our nation’s priorities around and start meeting the needs of our communities and stop feeding the machinery of war with our tax dollars.
The march took a route that went in front of the Excel Center, the site of the RNC – though, once in that area, marchers had to walk in an area with huge fencing on both sides of them. While there was hardly any police presence at the rally site or with the march itself, there was a massive police operation in the downtown area, especially near the Convention Center. The march route turned around at this point and returned to the starting location on the lawn of the State Capitol. All but a few hundred people left the downtown area, exhausted and hot but glad to have been a part of this important mass mobilization against the war.
Some people stayed downtown; and before too long, there were confrontations with the police. I was not in attendance downtown during the melee, and I’m not able to report back firsthand, but from the information that I have received and heard, it is clear that the police overreacted and used excessive force, using pepper spray, hitting people with batons, pushing people back with horses, and much more. Regardless of how we feel about the activities of the some of the people in downtown St. Paul, the actions of the police force were deplorable. In the end, the police arrested 284 people, including at least four journalists.
United For Peace and Justice was proud to have been part of the locally-led coalition that organized the demonstration, and we congratulate the organizers for a job well-done. We are pleased that we helped get the word out and mobilized people to be at this march and other activities in St. Paul during the RNC, just as we did in Denver for the DNC.
We urge you to keep watching the news to see how things unfold in the next few days, especially in terms of police conduct. They need to know that people around the country are watching!
UFPJ was also working to spread the word about the major national mobilization, Million Doors for Peace, scheduled for September 20. A group of staff and volunteers was actively leafleting in both Denver and St. Paul, at a whole host of locations in both cities, to ensure that people and the groups they are associated with become involved in this very important mobilization.
More information on the Million Doors for Peace mobilization will be sent out shortly. [ http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=GdRnA%2BBBIh3W0D5grAjj4iqnTZbXJxDb ]To hear more about this effort, click here and sign-up to be a volunteer, willing to knock on forty doors in your own neighborhood for voter education, petition-signing, and other related items. [ http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=Tudh6ypJhLxEIdsqHhdIuyqnTZbXJxDb ]You can sign-up here to volunteer for this effort.
Leslie Cagan, UFPJ National Coordinator