A Day in Baghdad Comes to Champaign

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On the afternoon of Thursday, September
20th, over sixty people laid down at
the busiest intersections of campus
town. At 5 pm, a crowd gathered in
front of the Alma Mater to hear from
the UIUC Campus Anti-War Network,
Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against
the War, the Green Party’s position on congress’ responsibility
in ending the war in Iraq, and a perspective on the
media’s complicity in the war. Following the Speak Out,
there was a local reenactment of what happened in Washington
D.C. the Saturday before.
On that September 15, 100,000 people marched
through Washington D.C. demanding an immediate end
to the war in Iraq. Led by veterans of the Iraq War, they
marched from the White House to the Capitol building,
where 5,000 laid down in a symbolic act of solidarity with
our brothers and sisters dying in Iraq. The police arrested
nearly 200 people for this dramatic action, a majority of
them uniformed veterans. Although the mainstream media
misreported the day’s actions, trivialized its importance,
and lied about its size, to see 5,000 motionless bodies on
the clean-cut grass outside the Capitol was truly inspiring.
September 15 was just a kick-off action to a week of
national anti-war protest. The Campus Anti-War Network
(CAN) is a nation-wide coalition of students working to end
the war. The local CAN chapter planned the Die-In on Green
Street as part of the protests taking place across the country
throughout the week. This is the third youth-led Die-In to
take place in this community since May, the other two being
organized primarily by local high school students.
The essence of successful protest is to disrupt the calm
of our accustomed blissful ignorance. Organizers had written
to senators Durbin and Obama and representative
Johnson urging them to cut funding for the war immediately
and inviting them to attend the protest. However, the
main goal of this Die-In was to force onto the attention of
Urbana-Champaign residents the reality of the suffering in
Iraq. It is not right for Americans to be able to ignore this
war. It is not right that in Iraq there is hardly a person who
has not lost a friend in the violence. In Iraq, the lack of
energy, water, and food is a daily struggle. Although this
war is waged in our name, here in America it is more than
easy – almost expected—to ignore it all.
Daily Illini Columnists may trivialize the Die-In, but creative,
disruptive local protest has important and undeniable
results. Several hundred passersby were forced to pause and
ask themselves why “dead” people were scattered on the
street, and many more when they saw the photos in the
paper. To get people thinking about the Iraq War and how
they as citizens can end it is an accomplishment in itself.

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