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War protests return to campuses
By Brandt Williams
Minnesota Public Radio
September 20, 2001

Members of Minnesota's anti-war activist community are gearing up for a heightened campaign of protests following last Tuesday's terrorist attacks and the U.S. government's call for military retaliation against terrorism. Thursday marked a day of anti-war demonstrations scheduled at nearly 150 college campuses across the country. At a demonstration at the University of Minnesota, some local veterans of the movement offered their encouragement and support to a younger generation of protesters.

A protestor carries his sign at an anti-war protest at the University of Minnesota Thursday.
(MPR Photo/Brandt Williams)
The crowd of about 150 gathered at the steps in front of Northrop Auditorium Thursday paled in comparison to the thousands of students who gathered there 30 years before to protest the Vietnam war.

Veteran anti-war activist Marv Davidov was at the U back in those turbulent times. He says he remembers tear gas filling the air and protesters running from club-wielding police officers.

While some of the younger demonstrators lamented their smaller numbers Thursday, Davidov told them the anti-war movement of the '60s started with similarly small gatherings. "Everything that I've been involved with over 48 years has begun very small," he said. "And then it grew. And you all remind me of the best of Students for a Democratic Society, which organized campuses perhaps 200 campuses across the nation."

Unlike the war in Vietnam, America has sustained an attack on its homeland, leaving an estimated civilian death toll in the thousands. And, according to several nationwide polls, an overwhelming majority of Americans favor military action.

But Rick Jacobs, another veteran activist, told the group that they have the power to change people's minds the way protesters changed his mind about Vietnam. "When we began to see the resolve, people getting their heads bashed in by the cops and continuing to fight, we had to stop and think a little bit," he said.

Thursday's demonstration was peaceful. And while several campus police officers stood watch from a couple-hundred feet away, there was to be no head bashing on this afternoon. Jacobs praised the young protesters for their passion and reminded them to maintain the moral high ground when involved in disagreements with others.

"I want to tell you, you can go ahead and struggle with these people on the right. Give 'em respect, don't attack 'em personally. You first have to educate yourself on the history of what's going on and with that you can rip their rear ends," he said.

All the young protesters who presented their bullhorn-amplified views condemned the recent terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. And they demanded that the government examine the reasons why people would commit such atrocities against America before it retaliates.

Many protesters blamed U.S. foreign policy, which they say perpetuates a cycle of violence and hatred, and ultimately a backlash against America.

Minnesota Daily columnist Scott Laderman says the cycle will continue if the American military follows through with the president's plans for war. "People are supporting a war even though it's a war that cannot be won. Terrorism is not something that cannot be defeated militarily. You go to war, you embitter more people and those people respond with further terrorism," Laderman said.

More anti-war protests are scheduled in the Twin Cities next week. A larger march and rally will be held in Washington D.C. on September 29.