BY MARIE BRAUN
It was in the spring of 1999, in response to the U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia, that Lisa Pierce of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) and Michael Bischoff of Friends for a Non-Violent World called on local peace groups and faith communities to come together for a weekly peace vigil on the Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul, that continues to this day. At the time, we gathered in solidarity with people in Yugoslavia, who were courageously standing on their bridges to prevent them from being destroyed, taking the risk that the U.S. would not intentionally kill large numbers of innocent civilians.
When the war on Yugoslavia ended, WAMM and the Twin Cities Campaign to End Sanctions chose to continue the vigil with a new focus: the devastating sanctions on Iraq, which were responsible for the deaths of 5,000 Iraqi children each month. The vigil grew as Minnesotans traveled to Iraq to witness the devastating effect of these sanctions and began educating Minnesotans about the true nature of sanctions; that they are a type of war, a silent war, a war that was killing an Iraqi child every 10 minutes with no outcry from the international community because it was hidden from the public eye.
After Sept. 11, 2001, our focus became the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. The bridge vigil drew large numbers of people leading up the war on Iraq in 2003 and was an inspiration to many who started vigils in their own communities across the state of Minnesota and as far away as Sacramento, Calif. At one point, the Star Tribune reported that there were more than 50 peace vigils across the state of Minnesota alone.
Over these 20 years, vigilers have raised their voices relative to a number of other issues: the threats and/or acts of war against Libya, Pakistan, Somali, Mali, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Yemen, and Venezuela; torture; attacks on civil liberties; the use of drones and other weapons of war; banning nuclear weapons, and U.S. support for the occupation of Palestine, always calling on our government to fund human needs, not war.
While many did not come every week, they came when they heard the rumblings of war or other actions on the part of our government which threatened the peace. The vigil was a place for people of like mind to come together to call on our government to bring the troops home, and to “use the force of law, not the law of force” in dealing with international crises. The Wednesday vigil also became one of the places for citywide emergency protests.
The Lake Street/Marshall Avenue peace vigil has always been about telling the truth about war, that war is never about democracy or human rights or freedom; it is about money and greed and the control of resources. It is about pain and death and destruction.
It has been a place for people to come who refuse to accept the inevitability of war and want to try in some small way to move the world toward what it should be, a better, safer and more beautiful place. It draws people who are sustained by hope, people who have the audacity to believe that things can be different.
We look to peacemakers and justice-seekers who have gone before: Dorothy Day, Mahatma Gandhi, Jane Addams, Howard Zinn, Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Jr., Daniel Berrigan and so many others who believed in the dignity of every human person and understood the immorality and the futility of war – war, which is the ultimate form of violence and certainly a crime against humanity.
Join us for the 20 Year Anniversary Celebration of the Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge Vigil. Wednesday, April 24, 5 to 6 p.m. (Vigil) Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge, get signs at St. Paul Side. 6:15 p.m. (Potluck and Program) St. Albert the Great Church, 2836 33rd Ave. S., Minneapolis. Program will include a short video, toasts, music and sharing of stories. Sponsored by: End War Committee of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) and the Twin Cities Peace Campaign.
20 YEAR PEACE VIGIL ON THE LAKE STREET/MARSHALL
WHY WE CAME
WE CAME to end the scourge of war and to say “no” to the arms race and the squandering of scarce dollars on the weapons of war.
WE CAME for the children and for women who are always the first victims of war, and for those who live under the shadow of U.S. militarism and U.S. predator drones with their hellfire missiles.
WE CAME for the children of military families who often suffer the blowback of war when their parents come home.
WE CAME so that the children of the world might have a place to call home, good schools, health care, and clean air.
WE CAME so all children might experience the joy of peace, the wonder of connecting with peoples and cultures around the world, and for the survival of our amazing planet earth.
AND WE CAME for ourselves in order to never forget that the United States is at war and that we, as Americans, have a special responsibility to speak out, for the sake of the children, against the atrocities that our country commits in the name of “national security.”