Ya, You Betcha, We Gotta Protest in St. Paul, Hey!

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Ya, you betcha, end the war now!

They claim it’s a traditional Minnesota antiwar chant. Ya, sure, you betcha, you don’t t’ink it is?

One t’ing we know for sure: Plans are well underway to protest at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul on Sept. 1-4.

A big Labor Day march on Sept. 1 will kick things off. Folks are biking there from Madison, and walking from Chicago. Details:Steve Burns, a Wisconsin activist who attended a February planning meeting in the Twin Cities, reports:

In previous counter-protests at the conventions of the two major parties, there has been some tension between those wanting to organize a large, legally-permitted march, and those wanting to engage in more disruptive actions of civil disobedience, such as attempting to block the buses of convention delegates to prevent them from reaching the convention hall. In Minneapolis, a new approach is being tried: an agreement, undertaken by all groups well in advance of the convention, to allow for a “diversity of tactics” while agreeing to a “separation of time and place” for actions organized by different groups. Many of those attending thought this agreement might provide a model for future protests, whether at political conventions or future WTO-type events.

One group, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, is planning to walk from Chicago to St. Paul this summer, and they’re looking for participants, local support and housing as they make the long trek, a “Witness Against War” walk for peace:

July 12 is the approximate start date. Our journey will begin in the City of Chicago, site of the 1968 Democratic Party convention in the midst of the Vietnam War. The walk will conclude on August 31 in St. Paul — in time for the start of the 2008 Republican Party convention in the midst of the Iraq war.

Witness Against War 2008 is bipartisan in nature. As with the Vietnam War in 1968, responsibility for the Iraq War falls upon the shoulders of both the Democratic and Republican parties. The Republican party promises us decades of war in Iraq. The Democratic party offers up promises of a partial troop withdrawal, while setting forth a plan that would leave potentially 40,000 to 60,000 troops in Iraq to protect the U.S. Embassy and U.S. personnel; to train the Iraqi military and police; and to engage in so-called counter terrorist military action.

As the U.S. military issues plans for war in Iraq that will extend well into the future, the “Witness Against War” seeks to build opposition. The 32nd Brigade Combat Team, located in Wisconsin, was alerted in December 2007 that it may be called to active duty in Iraq sometime in the summer of 2009. This will be the largest call-up of Wisconsin National Guard troops to active duty since the 1960’s. We want this war to be ended before this call-up happens; before more Iraqi and U.S. soldiers’ lives are lost; and before Wisconsin residents find their lives disrupted by war.

The walk route will roughly parallel I-94 from Chicago to Tomah, Wisconsin and I-90 from Tomah to LaCrosse, WI and on to Winona, Minn. and then head to St. Paul, most likely via Rochester and then north (though the walk route in Minnesota is more fluid at this time).

The route will include Evanston and Waukegan in Illinois. In Wisconsin, such communities as Racine, Milwaukee, Jefferson, Madison, Baraboo, Tomah and LaCrosse. In Minnesota, it will include Winona, Rochester and ending in St. Paul. They expect to cover about 10 miles a day.

They would like to know the level of interest along the way. Would people be willing to volunteer a day or two of walking? Could you host a walker or two overnight? Could you help organize a group to hear a presentation? Other support could be food during the walk (e.g., lunches or potluck dinners) and providing vehicle support when the walk is in their area.

To learn more about this organization and how this is developing, watch their website and let them know of your interest.

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