Local anti-war protesters march on WU campus
St. Louis resident Andrew Elliot stood near the corners of Forsyth and Big Bend Boulevards, holding an anti-war poster and waving a large rainbow-striped flag.
Elliot participated in a rally hosted by Instead of War, an organization whose activities during debate night centered on several speakers whose families are personally affected by the war and the economy.
The speakers demanded entrance into the debate hall; their effort was meant to symbolize their call for community voice.
For Elliot, the flag is a symbol of peace and the most important element in his political and anti-war expression.
“I’m not even here to really protest; I just want to show my flag,” he said.
Instead of red and white stripes and stars, Elliot’s flag is adorned with bright stripes of rainbow colors and a sewn on imprint of a picture displaying a red horizon overlooking the sea.
Elliot made the flag himself and says he hopes to replace the American flag with it. He runs his own blog, which primarily consists of poetry that promotes peace. Elliot says he hopes his blog will help spread the word on what he calls the “new freedom free, and not the freedom fee.”
According to Elliot, his demonstration for peace also comes with a demand for change.
“I don’t know who is representing peace, or if Obama is representing peace. But if they are not representing peace, they need to change,” he said. “Change needs to happen, but it needed to happen yesterday.”
Dr. John Johnson, one of the central speakers in Instead of War’s protests, is a war veteran whose 19-year-old daughter served in the Iraq War. She was raped and killed in 2005, but the military has yet to confirm details; Johnson has enlisted the help of Missouri Rep. William Clay to access information surrounding her death.
“My fight is to get justice for my daughter but this is not just a fight for my daughter,” Johnson said. “This is a fight for women considering the military to making it safe for them to fight.”
Other speakers included a woman whose house was foreclosed and a cancer patient being denied healthcare.
Though some demonstrators in Instead of War protested against problems in the economy and the war, others protested the nature of the debate itself. Andy Haslet, coordinator of the Peace Economy Project, called for greater substance in the questions posed in the vice presidential debate.
“These debates are very coordinated, very planned,” Haslet said. “They’ve got a scripted set of questions that are very rehearsed. We want to know how their policies will affect the little guys… By spending money on the war, its taking away precious funds from investing in these important issues.”
Haslet and other protesters in Instead of War created homemade tickets, which they presented to debate officials on campus. These homemade tickets, according to Haslet, were meant to call attention to the need for transparency for the average citizen.
“These are tickets that have been certified by the people,” Haslet said. “We, the people here, want these questions to be inserted in the debate. There’s some legitimacy to the neutrality of scripted questions, but we could have learned those answers weeks ago. There’s nothing said that will be new.”
Though demonstrators Denise Devaro and her sister were not affiliated with the Instead of War protesters, they sought to bring attention to the issue of women’s rights and abortion. The sisters held signs reading “Pro-Life Mama for Obama” and “Catholic Mama for Obama.”
“As a Catholic, I feel that people who are not pro-choice are anti-abortion, because if you’re truly pro-life, you have to support life in all its phases,” Devaro said. “I’m in favor of universal healthcare, and education, and children, and people who are indigents. I believe that as one of the richest countries in the world, we should be taking care of people who have the least.”
Near the end of the rally, the Instead of War protesters marched up Big Bend Boulevard, attempting to gain access through the barricades. The group, numbering somewhere between 60 to 100 protesters, arrived banging homemade drums made from plastic buckets.
The protesters, however, stopped at a fence in the road that blocked the path to the Athletic Complex. On the other side of the fence, six St. Louis County police officers on bicycles lined up in two rows directly facing the protesters. No violence ensued, but the protesters stood and beat their drums for approximately ten minutes.
“We want substance, not the same old song and dance,” they chanted.
The protest eventually disbanded and the protesters left the area.
Elliot believes that it may be too late for the changes that the protesters demand to turn the country around, but he says he is still protesting because “[he doesn’t] want to see anyone else die.”
“I came here to protest the war, because it’s unjust. It’s not right for people to go to war without the people to vote on it,” Elliot said. “Voting people have the right to vote on going to war and on anything that the government does that involves the people.”