Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Report on March on the RNC - 40,000 take to streets

Report on March on the RNC - 40,000 take to streets
By Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator, United for Peace & Justice

September 2, 2008

Yesterday, on a hot and humid day in St. Paul,
Minnesota, upwards of 40,000 people marched to the
front door of the Republican National Convention to say
'US Out of Iraq Now', 'Money for Human Needs, Not War';
'No to the Republican Agenda'; 'Yes to Peace, Justice,
and Equality'.

Like most major marches, no one knew for certain how
many people would turn out for the March on the RNC.
The media coverage of the long struggle with local
officials for permit rights had, in the end, helped
organizers get the word out throughout the Twin Cities
area for the march. Groups all around the upper Midwest
organized buses, vans, and carpools to bring people
into town. It was clear that this was an opportunity
not to be missed. As the Republican Party was beginning
its four-day gathering to nominate John McCain as their
presidential candidate, we would be on the streets to
raise a clear strong voice addressing the war and a
range of other issues.

The demonstration began with a two-hour rally that felt
even longer. It was hot as the sun beamed down. The
weak sound system prevented lots of people from hearing
the speakers on the stage, one of which was UFPJ's Co-
Chair George Martin. Yet, everyone was patient, knowing
that it was important to give people time to gather
before heading out for the march.

A little after 1:00 PM, the march kicked off and was
led by a contingent of veterans and military families -
some of the people most impacted by the war in Iraq. I
watched the march go by, and what a sight that was!
People from many walks of life, some young, some old,
some from close-by in St. Paul and Minneapolis, some
from faraway places - all of them gathered for the
march. Contingents of immigrants, labor, poor people,
young people, doctors, religious, and faith-based
groups and much more took part in the march, carrying
tons of great homemade signs and banners. Literally,
tens of thousands of people united in their call to end
the war now!

It was a powerful statement of the deep opposition to
the war in Iraq that exists in every corner of this
country. It was a clear call for an end to the threats
of war with Iran. You couldn't miss the demand to turn
our nation's priorities around and start meeting the
needs of our communities and stop feeding the machinery
of war with our tax dollars.

The march took a route that went in front of the Excel
Center, the site of the RNC - though, once in that
area, marchers had to walk in an area with huge fencing
on both sides of them. While there was hardly any
police presence at the rally site or with the march
itself, there was a massive police operation in the
downtown area, especially near the Convention Center.

The march route turned around at this point and
returned to the starting location on the lawn of the
State Capitol. All but a few hundred people left the
downtown area, exhausted and hot but glad to have been
a part of this important mass mobilization against the

Some people stayed downtown; and before too long, there
were confrontations with the police. I was not in
attendance downtown during the melee, and I'm not able
to report back firsthand, but from the information that
I have received and heard, it is clear that the police
overreacted and used excessive force, using pepper
spray, hitting people with batons, pushing people back
with horses, and much more. Regardless of how we feel
about the activities of the some of the people in
downtown St. Paul, the actions of the police force were
deplorable. In the end, the police arrested 284 people,
including at least four journalists.

United For Peace and Justice was proud to have been
part of the locally-led coalition that organized the
demonstration, and we congratulate the organizers for a
job well-done. We are pleased that we helped get the
word out and mobilized people to be at this march and
other activities in St. Paul during the RNC, just as we
did in Denver for the DNC.

We urge you to keep watching the news to see how things
unfold in the next few days, especially in terms of
police conduct. They need to know that people around
the country are watching!
UFPJ was also working to spread the word about the
major national mobilization, Million Doors for Peace,
scheduled for September 20. A group of staff and
volunteers was actively leafleting in both Denver and
St. Paul, at a whole host of locations in both cities,
to ensure that people and the groups they are
associated with become involved in this very important

More information on the Million Doors for Peace
mobilization will be sent out shortly. To hear more
about this effort, click here
and sign-up to be a volunteer, willing to knock on forty doors in your own
neighborhood for voter education, petition-signing, and other related items. You
can sign-up here to volunteer for this effort.

Leslie Cagan, UFPJ National Coordinator

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