Walking to NATO Protest in Chicago

On Tuesday, six people set off from the state capitol in Madison, WI, on a 170-mile walk to Chicago to protest the NATO summit scheduled for May 20. They will be sleeping in people's homes, churches and community centers in 25 cities along the way, educating people about drone warfare, the suffering of the Afghan people and the need to shift our social and economic priorities away from war production.

The walk is organized by Buddy Bell and Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a Chicago-based group dedicated to nonviolent resistance to U.S. war-making.

Members of Voices have led over 70 delegations to Iraq to challenge the economic sanctions and were present in Baghdad in resistance to the 2003 U.S. military invasion. Since 2009, Voices has led five delegations to Afghanistan and two to Pakistan to listen and learn from nonviolent grassroots movements and to raise awareness about the negative impacts of U.S. militarism in the region.

This is the message they are carrying to NATO:

"We propose a different agenda for The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): immediately end your drone strikes, dismantle the NATO-ISAF armed mission in Afghanistan, and end your diplomatic and financial support for Hamid Karzai and the warlords in the National Assembly. Finally, we hold NATO responsible for providing reparations to the Afghans commensurate to the destruction caused by the Afghanistan War since NATO assumed command of the ISAF operation in 2003. These reparations must be dispersed by an independent body and might take the form of food aid, water filtration, public housing, public infrastructure projects, etc."

Bell and Kelly are joined by Kathy Walsh of Madison, Alice Gerard of Grand Island, NY, Brian Terrell from Maloy, Iowa, and Jules Orkin from Bergenfield, NJ. Seasoned anti-war activists all, they have a total of 128 years of organizing and demonstrating among them.

In a press conference at the capitol, each of the walkers said a few words about why they were embarking on this journey. Gerard opposes the use of drones and the backward priorities of the U.S. Government. "Our country is rotting away from the inside. There are not resources for education and healthcare, but we have unlimited resources for oppression and destruction abroad," she said.

Brian Terrell said, "Our pressing domestic problems can't be solved while waging wars of aggression around the world." He mentioned that President Obama had just declared May 1 "National Loyalty Day" urging the people of the U.S. to pledge their loyalty to the flag and the troops who fight to defend it. Terrell called that a "strange perversion" of May Day, originally a commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre where armed forces turned their weapons on strikers and eight anarchists were falsely accused of throwing a bomb at police and four of them were hung. Terrell said, "our loyalties are with the children of Afghanistan and all workers across national boundaries."

Kathy Kelly took the opportunity to rail against the secret agreement signed by Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai the night before in a secret, dead of night meeting at Bagram Airbase. While details of the agreement have not been released to the public, the broad outlines suggest an extension of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan until at least 2024. Drawing the connection between the oil and mineral interests at stake in Afghanistan and the U.S. military presence there, Kelly said, "Domination of the economy by production for wars is necessary to support the profit-making structures of those in power. When will profiteers realize that they can still make money by making things that are good for people and the planet?"

The Voices walkers will be holding teach-in events in Milwaukee on May 8 and 9, and in Racine on May 11. They welcome people to join them at any point in their journey for any length of time.

For more information about how to support the group and their specific whereabouts at any moment, call (312) 348-0339.

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