Mills activists held a demonstration against the Bush Administration on Thursday, Feb. 15. Their message? “Only peace can defeat violence.”
Formed on Feb. 6, the Mills Peace Coalition had one week to organize their first protest, or they would miss the national college campus strike day set by the World Can’t Wait organization-an anti-war group active amongst college students since the 1960s.
Sophomore Daniella Matthews- Trigg, a member of the coalition and World Can’t Wait, said that a mass walk-out on campus would require more planning than the new club had time for, so they organized a demonstration instead.
Dressed in black and wearing matching green arm bands, Mills women joined their fellow poets and musicians as well as guest speakers in Adam’s Plaza from 12:30 to 3 p.m.
According to junior Nicole Hudley, members dressed in black for a “die in” where the Mills protestors were supposed to collapse to represent the thousands of Iraqis who died during the war.
Matthews-Trigg said the group dropped this idea, fearing that such tactics might alienate the audience. Instead, participants encouraged a moment of silence while John Lennon’s song “Imagine” played in the background.
Freshwoman Bethan Lamb said the song’s message was timeless and fit the coalition’s beliefs on violence with its anti-Vietnam War message and optimism: “Imagine a world that’s beautiful,” she said.
The green armbands were used to show solidarity with the Black Women’s Collective.
The BWC shared their space in Adams Plaza when a rule prohibiting noise after 1 p.m. forced the demonstration to move from Toyon Meadow.
“The BWC pretty much gave us their time spot, so we have to give them a hand,” Matthews-Trigg said.
Signs along Adams Plaza spoke of the poor conditions in Iraq and criticized Bush.
The main banner hung across the Rothwell Center steps was made from the names of Iraqi war casualties. Above it read, “Imagine this scroll 10x its length to see the average (conservative) # of Iraqi civilians killed (reported) – Iraqi Body Count.”
Sophomore Courtney Nuding said she used the 2,800 identified Iraqis killed by the U.S, and listed each name twice. She said that this result was close to the real body count was: 58,000 – 60,000 people.
“I wanted a visual to the death,” Nuding said.
The focus of the rally was on Iraqi fatalities, but about 3,100 U.S. soldiers died in the war.
Many demonstrators connected the War in Iraq to Vietnam and 1960s protests.
Nuding read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech against Vietnam war; junior Kelly Stack recited a poem written by a female Vietnam veteran called “How to Say Love in a War;” and sophomore Mercedes Martin performed a spoken word poem about the commercialization of Martin Luther King’s activism in America.
Matthews-Trigg said these references were deliberate since she thought the Vietnam War was similar to the War in Iraq.
“Vietnam was a time when people came out in opposition of the government and put an end to a war,” she said.
Guest speakers from various organizations spoke at the demonstration, including: Code Pink, the Peace and Freedom Party and Act Now to Stop the War and End Racism.
Amelia McDonald, organizer for the youth and student branch of ANSWER, voiced the Peace Coalition’s philosophy on protesting.
“Violence does not belong in our community,” she said. “We, as youth and students, reflect the society we grow in.”
Sophomore Alison Lowrie concurs. “We are not only against the war, but against violence and for safe lives,” she said.
Brenda Salantes, now a sophopmore, told the Weekly in 2005 that she supported the war.
“With the way [U.S.] boys talk about the fighting and chaos that happens between the two [Iraqi] groups I can see why it’s such a necessity to have them there,” Salantes said.
The Mills Peace Coalition plans further anti-war protests, beginning on March 18 with the Iraqi war’s fourth anniversary rally in San Francisco.