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ISSUE 120 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 3/23/2007

Iraq war protestors speak out

By Peter Farrell
Variety Editor

Friday, March 23, 2007

On the evening of March 20, 2003, the United States began to bomb Baghdad. Four years later, St. Olaf’s student-run Peace and Justice Organization commemorated the opening attack by launching Peace Week, hoping to raise awareness of the ongoing violence in Iraq and simultaneously promote non-violence, promote peaceful foreign policy solutions and encourage student agitation for peace.

The organizers of Peace Week, Autumn Cutting ‘07, Sarah Miller ‘09 and Pete Williams ‘08, hoped that timing the event to coincide with the anniversary of the Iraq War would make the occasion more effective.

“We thought we could use the Iraq War to get people talking about peaceful foreign policy. We’re concerned with Iraq, but we also want to promote general non-violence,” Williams said.

However, the rally that started Peace Week was intended to draw attention to the conflict in Iraq. Attended by students, professors and 30 members of Northfield’s People for Peace and Good Will (PPG) chapter, the rally focused on the violent impact of the Iraq War, both at home and abroad.

“We realize people have strong feelings about President Bush, but that wasn’t our concern,” Cutting said. “We wanted to leave partisan politics out of it and just focus on the fact that Americans and Iraqis are dying, and we need to stop that violence.”

Miller agreed. “The focus is on a general spirit of peace,” Miller said. “It’s not about whether you like Bush or not. We’re in Iraq now. How can we find a peaceful solution?”

The protest began with a vigil, followed by a recitation of the names of Minnesota soldiers who have died in battle since the Iraq War began. Afterwards, students had the opportunity to write letters to their local members of Congress, contribute a tracing of their foot to the “Path for Peace” art project and sign a petition protesting the potential armed conflict between the United States and Iran. Anti-war poetry and music provided the background to all these activities.

First-year David Mitchell felt the rally provided an excellent social forum for an exchange of ideas about peace by trying to focus on unity instead of division.

“The rally felt really positive, like we were trying to have a real conversation and raise awareness of the possibility of peace,” Mitchell said.

Following the rally, Peace and Justice is using the rest of Peace Week to continue the dialogue that began on Monday. On Wednesday night, the group hosted an open-mic night in the Lion’s Lair, which included an appearance by Ocho, a singer-songwriter originally from Portland, Ore. who is well known for his protest songs.

‘The rally, even though it was fun, is a bit of a serious affair,” Williams said “Open-mic nights are always a blast, and we got students to play songs about peace and we also got Ocho to come, which everyone really liked.”

The organization will further seek to raise awareness about non-violence by showing the critically-acclaimed documentary “The Ground Truth,” which focuses on the plight of Iraqi families after the invasion.

Finally, members of the Political Science faculty, Professors Sheri Breen and Kris Thalhammer and Assistant Professor Doug Casson, will close out Peace Week with short, informal speeches on peace and foreign policy, followed by group discussion between professors and students. St. Olaf’s College Democrats are also sponsoring the event.

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