Marching through small towns and big cities across Illinois and Wisconsin, a handful of war protesters are on the first leg of a 450-mile walk from Chicago to St. Paul to join demonstrators at the Republican National Convention.
"As we come through various communities, individuals and groups join us to walk for a day or two," Dan Pearson, 27, said by cell phone from Madison, Wis., where the group stopped Monday to attend a peace vigil at the state Capitol.
About 10 to 15 people are taking part in most of the trek, with six going the whole distance, said Pearson, co-coordinator for the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence, which organized the "Witness Against War" walk.
The route will take them to Baraboo and LaCrosse, in Wisconsin, and on to Winona, Minn., before they reach St. Paul on Aug. 30, marching about 12 miles per day.
"We've been in touch with a number of peace groups in northern Illinois and Wisconsin," he said. "[They] have put us in their homes.
Part of the symbolism of the Chicago-St. Paul march is to link the protests at the Sept. 1-4 GOP convention with the antiwar demonstrations that occurred at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.
One of the marchers is Paul Melling, 27, a recent graduate of St. Cloud Technical College and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Melling said he was an Army specialist deployed to Iraq in 2003 and 2004 in the field artillery. "The war in Iraq is wrong," he said. "It was wrong from the beginning. ...What I did over there did not do anything to benefit the Untied States or the Iraqi people."
Reaction along the route has been mostly positive, but sometimes people have been hostile, Melling said. He likes to carry a sign that says, "Support Our Troops, End the War in Iraq."
Marchers include Kathy Kelly and Mike Miles, nationally known peace activists.
St. Paul development
In another development Monday, at a news conference in St. Paul, Meredith Aby, a leader of the Sept. 1 antiwar march in St. Paul, said her group has pledges from Los Angeles and New York protesters to come to the city with vans coming from Denver after the Democratic National Convention and buses or vans from Lincoln, Neb., Sioux Falls, S.D., and most Minnesota cities.
Jessica Sundin, another march leader, said protesters are not planning at this time to appeal a decision last week by U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen, who sided with the police march route and time schedule for the Sept. 1 march. Sundin said her group instead will put pressure on St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman to change the route and time.
The Chicago-St. Paul march has set up a website at vcnv.org.
Randy Furst • 612-673-7382