Hundreds of students skip class to protest Iraq war

Students march
Students march in downtown Minneapolis on Friday as part of a classroom walkout protesting the Iraq war.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

The students came from schools all around the Twin Cities to the plaza outside the Hennepin County Government Center. They expressed their stance on the war through chants, signs and song.

One of the organizers, Tyrus Thompson, who calls himself Tyrus A, sang a protest song in front of a group of charged-up teenagers.

"...looking to stop a rogue regime, the first one that we must confront is Washington D.C.," sang Thompson, who sports a mohawk completely spiked, reminiscent of early British punk rockers.

Thompson is with Youth Against War and Racism and a group called Socialist Alternative. The two groups were the main sponsors of the rally.

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Kelsey Grinke from the Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley recited the latest death tolls for U.S. soldiers and Iraqi citizens.

"It has been the bloodiest year of the war so far," Grinke said. "I ask you, are these deaths really bringing justice and democracy to Iraq?"

Other speakers focused on the cost of the war in financial terms. They complained that the government should take the money being spent on the war and use it for their schools. Speakers called for smaller class sizes and to make more money available for college scholarships.

Protest rock
Protest organizer Tyrus Thompson rocks out in front of Government Center in downtown Minneapolis.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

Students also chanted against military recruiters who look for enlistees at their schools. One student protester claimed that one of his friends was coached by a recruiter on how to beat a drug test.

Other students, like Selena Kane came to the rally because they have loved ones who are either in Iraq or in the process of going there.

"I'm here in part because my cousin is currently in training," she said. "He's already been through one, but now he's going back. And he has a little baby and a wife at home and I want him back."

Kane is 17 and a student at Southwest High School. She says she would have liked to have seen more of her fellow students turn out for the protest.

"I tried to convince as many people to come, but there's a sentiment that it's not going to make a difference and I feel - I think it's awful that they feel that way, but there are a few of us here to represent our school."

Selena Kane was not the only student at the rally with a loved one facing harm in Iraq.

I spoke with South High School freshman Nicole Peterson. Why did she come here today?

"To bring the troops home...some of my family is in the troops and I miss them...I just really want to bring him home, because I miss him a lot and I'm scared," she said.

Peterson says that while officials at her school didn't stop students from attending the rally, but if a student missed a test that would result in a failing grade.

The protest attracted some onlookers who are not high school students, but share their views about the war. One of those people is Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

"I was up in my office when I saw people out peacefully protesting the war and I came down and said thank you. Because many of us were out protesting this before this war started. More people should," he said.

Following the rally they marched through downtown streets on their way to Augsburg College for a teach-in on the war.