In the Spotlight

News & Features
Your Voice
DocumentJoin the conversation with other MPR listeners in the News Forum.

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Anti-war protests increase in wake of State of the Union speech
Larger view
Protester Sara Brenner, a 40-something Phd candidate at the U of M, dresses as the Statue of Liberty. She's a member of Code Pink, a group of mothers opposed to war. (MPR Photo/Marisa Helms)
About 1,000 anti-war protesters slowed traffic Wednesday night as they lined the Lake Street bridge over the Mississippi River. Though the bridge is the site of weekly protests against a possible war with Iraq, the event turned out a larger-than-usual number of protesters. Many said they felt it was especially important to show up to oppose what they see as President Bush's declaration of war in Tuesday night's State of the Union address.

Minneapolis, Minn. — A woman who would only identify herself as Doris came out to the Lake Street bridge with her family for the weekly anti-war demonstration.

"We're just waving as people go by, and give us a thumbs up, or sometimes we get half a peace sign. None of us believe in war, I don't believe in the sanctions, I had to do something. And I really don't believe Bush is listening," she said.

Larger view
Image Protester Marlis Weber

President Bush and his State of the Union speech seemed to provide the fuel for many protesters, including retired elementary school teacher Frank Johnson of Minneapolis. He walked the bridge with a sign reading Saying no to war is patriotic. Atop the sign were two small American flags.

Johnson says he came out because he believes the president is making it clear that he's determined to go to war with Iraq.

"The closer we get to all of it, it gets quite frightening. We don't need to do this again. There are other solutions to this situation -- some U.N. work on it. Really no military from the U.N. or the United States. I think there's other ways of getting around this," Johnson said.

St. Paul retiree and protester Jim McGowan says he doesn't see a real motive for war. "I don't think we've been given any good, real reasons for being there yet. I think Saddam Hussein's got to be taken out of there, one way or another. He's destroying that country, and destroying his own people. But at the same time, what right have we got to go in there and kill thousands of his already victims to get rid of him? It seems like a strange motivation. And we've never done this before. This is not the American way of doing things."

As the cars slowed to a stop and tied up traffic on the bridge, young people and retirees alike stood on the cold bridge to make a statement.

Laura, 18, of St. Paul came to the protest with her 11-year-old sister.

Larger view
Image A weekly protest

"We want to send a message to specifically Bush but also the rest of the world, that we're not going to support the the killing and rape of innocent people, women, and children. And we're also pacifists, so we don't believe violence can solve anything," she said.

Laura and her sister were wearing buttons reading Code Pink, as were many more, including a group of 60-something women wearing pink boahs.

Code Pink is a new anti-war group, a "women-led movement of people working for peace," as they put it.

A little further down the bridge stood a pink Statue of Liberty. Actually, it was protester Sara Brenner, a 40-something Phd candidate at the U of M.

"Code Pink is based on basically two different things. One, it's a takeoff on George Bush's code red, his code system. But it's also in a hospital; when a baby is abducted from a hospital, the hospital calls it Code Pink. And we feel like George Bush is abducting our babies and taking them off to war and we don't want to see that," Brenner said.

There is optimism among the opposition. Sara Standefer of White Bear Lake says she feels the tide of public opinion is turning against a war. As evidence, she cites the high turnout at the protest and the latest news that former commander of the 1991 Gulf War, Norman Schwarzkopf, is questioning the need for war and calling for more time for U.N. inspections in Iraq.

"Certainly some official tides are turning. Look at Norman Schwarzkopf coming out against it. Richard Butler, who has been such a proponent of the Bush Administration, in incredibly strong terms, has condemned this war," Standefer said.

George Bush's State of the Union address gave urgency to these protesters, who say they'll continue to step up their efforts while the Bush Administration continues to deploy troops to the Gulf and, as they say, beat the drums of war.

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects