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Standing for peace

A history of the Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge peace vigil

It was in the spring of 1999, in response to the U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia, that members of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), Veterans for Peace, Friends for a Nonviolent World, the Twin Cities Campaign to End Sanctions (on Iraq) and a number of local faith communities started the weekly 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 standing on their bridges in the belief that the United States would not intentionally kill large numbers of civilians.

The WAMM End War Committee has been committed to this vigil for these many years because we believe it is important to have an ongoing public witness against war. Though our numbers may be small at times, we gather on the bridge every Wednesday to remind ourselves and others that the United States is at war and that we must speak out against the atrocities that our country commits in the name of "our national security." It is also an opportunity to stop, for a short time each week, to remind ourselves of the plight of the people, especially children, who live with the suffering and deprivation that war brings and to join together to say "War is not the answer."

For several years, the vigil focused on opposing the sanctions on Iraq and the wars on and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, but vigilers have frequently raised their voices relative to other issues: threats of war against Iran, North Korea, Libya, Mali and Syria; torture; attacks on civil liberties; and U.S. support for the occupation of Palestine, calling on our government to fund human needs, not war. We have also focused attention on the weapons of war - most recently on drones, our government's current weapon of choice.
The numbers at the weekly bridge vigil have varied from seven people on a freezing January day to 1,200 on the day that the BBC filmed St. Paul residents Mary and Nick Eoloffs, adoptive parents of Mordecai Vanunu, Israeli nuclear whistleblower, during one of the vigils. Other actions on the bridge included a three-day fast against sanctions, which drew more than 60 fasters and bishops from both the Lutheran and Catholic faith communities. We have been gratified to learn that this vigil has been an inspiration to many others who started vigils in their own communities across Minnesota and as far away as Sacramento, Calif.

Thousands of people from the Twin Cities and many outside the Twin Cities area have participated in the vigil on the bridge. We hope the 15th anniversary of the vigil in April will be an opportunity to come together to share our stories and to support one another in our continuing struggle to end the war and occupation of Afghanistan, stop the drone bombing of Pakistan, put an end to U.S. threats of war in the Middle East and elsewhere, and focus our government's attention on issues of jobs, education, housing, health care and other human needs.

The WAMM End War Committee is especially thankful to those who have stood with us through freezing cold weather, snow, rain, excessive heat and gloom of night since 1999, never missing a Wednesday - even on special holidays. You are truly dedicated peacemakers.


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