On February 15, 2003, the day after Valentines Day, peacemakers began a march that encompassed the world in an international protest against war! In almost 800 cities in 60 countries from 12,000,000 to 15,000,000 people took to the streets with a collective purpose.
At least one million marchers turned out in Britain, one million in Italy and two million in Spain, as people expressed their anti-war sentiment. Two hundred thousand rallied in San Francisco and New York. About 100,000 turned out in Paris, France. [Ed. note: see photo of the Minneapolis protest on Feb 15, 2003 at end of this post.]
The protests were organized to “follow the sun” from Australia to the US. Across the world the challenge came in many languages.
They say it was the first global demonstration, and the cause was to prevent war against Iraq. The war had not yet begun! No, the world was saying, we will not endorse Bush’s War. But the rubber-stamp congress would.
Although it was unseasonably cold, about 12,500 marched in the streets of Toulouse, France, to support the effort that encircled the earth. They came with balloons, banners, bulletins, badges, and babies. Quick-stepping mothers were pushing bundled babies in covered prams and fathers were carrying rosy-cheeked toddlers on their shoulders. White haired couples held hands as they strolled along.
Protestors came from across the social and political spectrum. There were representatives of democracy, socialism, communism, anarchy, business, labor, civil rights and the environment. There was at least one Anishinabe/Ojibwe Grandmother Storyteller from the Leech Lake Reservation marching the cobbled streets that day.
Yes, I was there in a borrowed ski jacket! Helene bought me a red and white checkered keffiyeh for the occasion. I tied it around my neck as I marched for solidarity and peace!
The keffiyeh is a scarf traditionally worn by Palestinian farmers to protect them from sun, cold and dust. During the Arab Revolt of the 1930s it became a symbol of nationalism. It’s prominence increased in the 1960s with the Palestinian Resistance Movement and its adoption by Yassar Arafat. He usually wore one of black and white.
From time to time the marchers joined their vigorous voices in loud anti-war chants. The words bounced around in the long stone canyons and shivered against the high windows. Some downtown residents opened their doors and leaned over their balconies to wave at the passing crowds.
As a river of people filled the streets of downtown Toulouse, traffic was brought to a standstill at several intersections. Drivers sat inside their stranded vehicles waiting patiently for the masses to pass.
Police kept a low profile and no law enforcement brutality was reported.
A statement was released the following day which proclaimed: We don’t just say ‘no’ to war, we say ‘yes’ to peace, we say ‘yes’ to building economic and social systems that are not dominated by central banks and huge financial institutions. We don’t just say ‘no’ to war – we demand an end to massive resources being squandered on the military while billions are made poorer and poorer as a few reap huge wealth totally disproportionate to any labor or ingenuity of their own.”
At one point in the march a man approached me and said his friend wanted to be photographed with the Ojibwe woman from Minnesota. Although I was quite surprised that my presence had been so noteworthy, I was more than willing to accommodate the man! Soon a short man with white hair, rosy cheeks and a cheerful smile was standing beside me. We shook hands, our photo shoot was over and he melted into the crowd.
A man standing nearby asked, “Do you realize who that was?”
“No,” I replied, ”I do not.” I had no interest in his identity. For me, it was just an encounter with a friendly stranger. It had no political significance.
But the man wanted me to know, so he went on speaking. “That was the chairman of the communist party!”
It was of no importance to me for I was marching with my friends, who were Socialists.
I flew home the following day. Like everyone else that had participated, I was exhilarated at the prospect of peace instead of war. But the leaders did not heed the wisdom of the people. So the infamous, barbarous, illegal, unnecessary and poorly conceived ‘shock and awe’ began. We became hopelessly entrenched in an unjust war. Children who were just 7 years old then, are old enough to enlist now.
Bush and his cohorts were beating a big war drum and telling loud and careless lies to the American people. The mainstream media did little or nothing to promote truth, justice and peace. Journalists simply swallowed the party line. Now we all know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and there was no reason to destroy their homeland and murder their children with bombs.
Many will say we failed to purchase peace with people-power. They will say we did not avert the disastrous invasion and bloody occupation of Iraq. They will say we did not sustain the momentum of the march. They will say we went home and gave up.
But we are holding the ground for future generations to stand upon by protecting their constitutional right of dissent. We continue to confront our communities on the issue of unsustainable militarism, which is buried deep in the bloody earth upon which this nation has been built.
For the welfare of unborn generations we must redirect military spending to create jobs, invest in schools, housing and renewable energy.
Solidarity requires that we communicate with other peoples of the world, not the rich elite who are planning for their own continued dominance! We must lift ourselves up high and stand tall enough to see beyond the barriers of tribe, race, language, culture, class, and nations.
(click to enlarge)
UPDATE from Anne Dunn, February 17, 2014
The Children’s Fire
Like many people today, I’m deeply concerned about the land and have often wondered what kind of a world we are leaving to our grandchildren. Anishinabeg were told by Creator that we were the caretakers of this land and for thousands of years our ancestors took care that the resources were not exploited. But that position was usurped by the European invasion.
Since the Leech Lake Reservation is located within the boundaries of the Chippewa National Forest, there are many Anishinabeg who feel it is time that traditional standards of stewardship be adopted here and now.
Because… in the beginning there was the land, seemingly endless stands of white and red pine, innumerable streams and sparkling lakes; and there were the peoples of the land… the Anishinabeg. The great forests are gone now, plundered for profit… the streams and lakes are under siege. The peoples of the land stand poised and expectant… awaiting their season of respect and restitution. When a new and honorable history can be written with dignity and truth.
For decades, environmentalists have warned that our planet has limited resources. Yet, we continue to destroy that which we must preserve if our children and their children are to live well on Turtle Island.
The beautiful balance of nature no longer exists. Animal habitat is steadily encroached upon and the plant kingdom is increasingly threatened.
We can no longer allow our ecosystems to be compromised. We cannot allow the fate of earth, our island home, to be determined by the well-funded lobby of powerful corporations motivated by selfishness and greed.
The Hopi tell a story of The Children’s Fire, which promotes the concept that no one should be allowed to do anything that adversely affects our children.
It is said that the children’s fire must be forever guarded by the elders… the grandparents. But how do we guard the children’s fire? By getting out of bed and doing what has to be done. By standing alone in difficult places to give the children of tomorrow a good life in a good land.
One day the children will know that in the beginning… man, animals, birds and plants lived together on our Turtle Island in a beautiful balance of nature. The needs of all were met in the bountiful world they shared.
However, man became increasingly aggressive and began to abuse the rights of the plant and animal kingdoms.
Therefore, the harmony between them was destroyed. Many animals died needlessly and whole families disappeared.
But man continued his exploitations until he brought great hardship and strange diseases upon himself.
We will tell the children how the plants, which had remained friendly toward man, responded to his needs by providing remedies for all his diseases. Every herb and root produced a cure for man’s many ailments.
But, as was his nature, man’s aggressiveness and greed threatened to deplete the natural supply of health-giving plants.
If we continue down this road we will undoubtedly succeed in creating an environment so hostile that the survival of mankind will be jeopardized. It will be said that this generation extinguished the children’s fire.