Global peace rally takes to Missoula streets 

Looking around the globe these days, war seems to be all the rage, literally. Politicians and talking heads in Washington are presently beating the war drums once again, this time with an eye on targeting Iraq. But on Saturday, Sept. 28, peaceable and peace-loving Montanans will have an opportunity to come together, express their opinions, and challenge the current course of events at a peace procession and rally being held in downtown Missoula. Starting at noon, demonstrators will meet at Circle Square (at the north end of Higgins Ave.). Shortly thereafter, a procession of marchers will head to Caras Park, where demonstrators will reassemble at the east end of the park for an afternoon of speeches, music-making, solidarity-sharing, and other events.

Saturday’s peace procession and rally are being organized by volunteers with the Missoula chapter of CAJA, or Community Action For Justice in the Americas. CAJA’s primary focus is Latin America, and in particular, Colombia, a country that is currently receiving billions of dollars in U.S. military aid in the form of “Plan Colombia,” ostensibly to wage an international war on drugs. Local peace activists point out, however, that Colombia and Iraq share one notable characteristic: Both have extensive petroleum reserves.

Both Colombia and Iraq will undoubtedly be hot topics of discussion at the rally. According to CAJA organizer Scott Nicholson, “As people who have traveled to Colombia and seen directly the violence inflicted there, we intend to bring that to peoples’ attention, and to halt the spread of U.S.-sponsored violence in both Columbia and Iraq.”

Missoula’s event is only one of hundreds going on simultaneously around the United States as part of a 100-city mobilization spearheaded by the activist group, Witness For Peace. Their “No Shame In Our Name” campaign is designed to increase awareness about the downsides—and in some cases devastating—effects of U.S. foreign and monetary policy.

Why should Missoulians who support peaceful and diplomatic conflict resolution instead of war make the effort to attend Saturday’s procession and rally? CAJA volunteer Gary Hughes puts it bluntly: “At this stage it’s obvious that we can’t rely on elections to cast our vote. Therefore, it’s necessary to participate in rallies to reclaim our democracy.” Hughes hastens to add, “We’re not all doom-and-gloom, though. We definitely plan to have fun.”

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