Vigil on the Lake Street Bridge

Marie Braun at the Lake Street VigilBY ED FELIEN

It was overcast with sprinkles last Wednesday, July 15.  Only about 30 people showed up for the weekly Peace Vigil on the Lake Street Bridge.
The Vigil started in 1999 when local peace groups decided to act in solidarity with the people of Yugoslavia who were standing on bridges to protest the bombing by U.S. warplanes.
Marie Braun, perhaps the principal organizer of the vigil, wrote in Womens Press:
“The WAMM End War Committee has been committed to this vigil for these many years because we believe it is important to have an ongoing public witness against war. Though our numbers may be small at times, we gather on the bridge every Wednesday to remind ourselves and others that the United States is at war and that we must speak out against the atrocities that our country commits in the name of ‘our national security.’ It is also an opportunity to stop, for a short time each week, to remind ourselves of the plight of the people, especially children, who live with the suffering and deprivation that war brings and to join together to say ‘War is not the answer.’ ”
Karl Meller, a retired state employee and an AFSME member, said he was standing in Marie’s place.  Normally Marie Braun stands at the south corner of the St. Paul side of the bridge, but she was out of town last Wednesday.  He was there, he said, to protest not just the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen, but he was against all the wars where the U.S. is involved, “places we haven’t even heard of.”
I asked him what he thought of the Iran Nuclear Arms Treaty.  He said, “It’s worth a try.  It may be the only chance we have.  But the Republicans are crazy enough to play politics with it and try to kill the deal.”
I asked him what he thought about Obama:  “I certainly didn’t like the TPP [the Trans Pacific trade agreement].  The overtime thing was good, but why didn’t he do it earlier?  He still has too many Wall Street appointments.”
Sister Jane McDonald, one of the five famous McDonald sisters, couldn’t remember how many times she’s been arrested for peace.  The first time was at a Honeywell stockholder’s meeting protesting the manufacture of anti-personnel bombs and the Vietnam War.  Since then she’s been arrested at Alliant Tech, the new manufacturers of anti-personnel bombs, at Senator Coleman’s office and at the St. Paul Cathedral at a public fast for El Salvador to protest the Iran/Contra scandal.
About the Pope she said, “Namaste”—a Sanskrit term that commonly means, “The divine in me recognizes the divine in you.”  About Donald Trump she said, “He’s a bad joke that we have to take seriously.  His racism is very toxic.”
Mickey Patterson has been coming to the vigil for seven years, and she’s been active in WAMM for 20.  She got involved through the Peace and Justice Committee of St. Albert the Great.  She likes Pope Francis, “We’re not going to have miracles.  But thinking outside the box is going to make us more conscious, more tolerant.”
Roger Cuthbertson said, “Don’t think war is the answer.”  He couldn’t believe the opposition to the Iran nuclear deal: “Do they really want us to go to war to prevent them from having weapons we already have?  We need to cooperate.  We need to stop punishment.  We need a loving attitude toward everyone.  It seems like a losing battle, but you can’t give up.  You have to resist.  We need to work harder to make sure war doesn’t happen.”
Jay Kvale, who was at the vigil, will be talking at St. Albert the Great Monday night, July 20, on the principles of nuclear disarmament.  He will talk about the history of nuclear treaties and the current stockpiles and what we can do to prevent nuclear war.  There will be a potluck dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the talk will begin at 7.
The Vigil on the Lake Street Bridge is every Wednesday from 5 to 6.  People walk the length of the bridge, and then, at the end, they form a circle and talk about what is happening in the peace community, join hands and sing “We Shall Overcome.” Everyone is welcome.

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