Strikers attend workshops, take to the streets

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In accordance with the mission of the Iraq Moratorium, which is to break routine daily activity in recognition of the war, roughly 200 Macalester students, faculty and staff walked out of class at 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 16 to participate in a day of workshops and discussion. The day culminated with an energetic, vocal group of roughly 50 to 60 students protesting, and temporarily blocking traffic, at the intersection of Grand and Snelling. The general strike, organized and facilitated by the Macalester Peace and Justice Coalition-Students for a Democratic Society (MPJC-SDS), began with a ‘Speak Out’ on Bateman Plaza. The ‘Speak Out’ invited the voicing of any and all opinions on the war.

Afterward, protestors dispersed to various hour-long workshops and lectures on campus led by several Macalester faculty members and representatives from notable anti-war groups such as the Republican National Convention Welcoming Committee, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Women Against Military Madness.

In the weeks leading up to the protest, some controversy had arisen over a faculty motion to request that all classes be canceled in protest of the Iraq war. Faculty debated the merits of holding a campus-wide protest over the course of two meetings in mid-October. Professors ultimately did not vote on the motion, falling short of quorum.

Some students who attended strike activities said the workshops were well attended and seemed to succeed in their goal of providing education and awareness on the state of the war.

“The feedback from the open discussion at the end of the strike included the opinion that classroom academics were replaced with a different type of education that is just as important in this day and age,” said one protest organizer, Hadley Pope ’09.

Tom Grotewohl ’11 agreed. “I thought it was cool that even though the school chose not to take a stance on the war, there were so many professors that decided to participate anyway. I liked that the strike was practical in the sense that it was educational.”

Grotewohl attended Humanities and Media and Cultural Studies professor Clay Steinman’s workshop, “Why Does the Iraq War Continue?: Thinking about Causality in Politics” where he said the audience outnumbered the seating available.

Following the workshops, all protestors were called into Kagin’s Hill Ballroom for a mass meeting to discuss the next steps for trying to bring the war to a halt. They compiled ideas for future action against the war in smaller groups, and then reorganized into groups according to individual fields of interest.

These smaller groups, or tactical groups, are meant to further implement anti-war activity on campus and in the local community as entities separate from MPJC-SDS. Each group is meant to focus on a specific tactic, such as community outreach, street protest, education, or performance and visual art, as a way to spread awareness and information on the war in Iraq.

Another purpose of the mass meeting was to generate constructive criticism to improve the execution of future events. Many felt strongly that there was a lack of publicity for the event, despite the many fliers and tabling in the Campus Center. In their opinion, the posters advertising the strike around campus did not communicate important details, which may have kept more people from participating. However, those who did meet were still optimistic.

“I feel hopeful for a more unified anti-war movement on campus,” attendee Maria Paschke ’11 said.

Sadie Cox ’11 said, “The regroup session in Kagin seemed to really get people thinking about what they can do individually and with others to fight the war.”

“The strike was a great beginning for a serious anti-war movement at Macalester,” said MPJC-SDS member Michael Galvin ’08. “There will be more events so that anti-war action can be planned collectively.”

The presence of the students in the street created a gridlock of cars that stretched down Grand and Snelling Avenues during rush hour. One police squad car arrived but they made no efforts to clear the intersection or to silence the students.

Galvin noted that while some people barred from passing through the intersections simply wanted to get through the blockade, most passersby voiced support for the students and their cause.

“Some people were saying, ‘Where have you guys been, we’ve been waiting for you,” he said.

Cox said that this particular scene was effective, for both the protestors and the observers.

“Everyone seemed to really enjoy getting out and making a statement. I think that we successfully disrupted peoples’ daily lives and got them thinking about the war,” Cox said.

“The spirit of the people who attended was really impressive and I hope that we can spread that to the rest of campus with future action,” said Julianna Carlson ’11.