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From Cathedral to Capitol with a message

  • Article by: David Phelps
  • Star Tribune
  • September 15, 2007 - 6:44 PM

Antiwar demonstrators Saturday used St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center, the site of the 2008 Republican National Convention, as a symbol of the Bush administration's Iraq war policy.

On a day of clear blue skies and mild temperatures, an estimated 1,500 protesters gathered on the steps of the St. Paul Cathedral before marching down Kellogg Boulevard to the Xcel Center at Seventh St. From there the march proceeded to the front lawn of the State Capitol.

One of the rally organizers said the Xcel Center has become "the local symbol" of the Republican war policy.

Protesters carried antiwar signs and chanted slogans, many of which were holdovers from Vietnam War protests 35 or 40 years earlier.

A small group of supporters of Bush's Iraq policy lined the marchers' route about a block from the Cathedral. They held up signs that said "Victory=Peace" and "Give victory a chance."

After the crowd at the Cathedral chanted, "What do we want? Peace. When do we want it? Now," one of the Bush supporters took a bullhorn and chanted, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, clichéd slogans have to go."

Otherwise it was a peaceful demonstration that stretched along nearly four city blocks. Horse-mounted St. Paul police monitored the gathering and squad cars blocked traffic along the route.

Speakers addressed the crowd both at the Cathedral steps and on the Capitol grounds during the event, which lasted about two hours.

Brandon Day, a St. Paul veteran who was deployed to Iraq twice, told the protesters about the agony of pulling a dead comrade out of a vehicle destroyed by a roadside bomb and the mental "detoxification" necessary for soldiers when they return to the U.S. from the combat zone.

"No amount of screaming will bring back a dead soldier," Day said.

Rick Hanson, representing the Minnesota chapter of Military Families Speak Out, said he has a 21-year-old son in Iraq.

"Bring our troops home now and take care of them when they return," Hanson said.

Protesters also contended that the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge was an example of Bush administration policies that placed military spending over spending on the nation's infrastructure and the economy.

The St. Paul rally mirrored a larger protest in Washington, D.C., that included several thousand people who marched from the White House to Capitol Hill. Counter-protesters lined the parade route waving American flags and chanting "U-S-A."

David Phelps • 612-673-7269

David Phelps • dphelps@startribune.com

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