We strongly condemn the deplorable actions of some of the protesters at Medea Benjamin’s book tour event on Friday, May 19 in Minneapolis, an event cosponsored by the local Veterans for Peace and Women Against Military Madness (WAMM). We believe that there are very legitimate, divergent positions on the war in Ukraine, even among people in the U.S. who have been longtime peace advocates. But there are ways of expressing that disagreement that are not legitimate. The violent incident that occurred on May 19 is an example of an unacceptable form of protest.
About 15 protesters gathered outside the event, chanting slogans such as “Medea Lies, Ukrainians Die.” The protesters were upset with Medea’s call for a ceasefire and peace talks, believing that the U.S. should continue to send weapons to Ukraine until they achieve victory. Medea, in her book and talks, calls this war a stalemate that is not winnable on the battlefield but could lead to World War III or a nuclear war. In the interest of ending the fighting and dying, she echoes the calls of many people and national leaders, from Pope Francis to Brazil’s President Lula, for immediate peace talks.
One of the protesters was screaming at Medea and then grabbed her cell phone while she was attempting to film the situation. She called on members of Veterans for Peace for help to retrieve the phone. A fight ensued in which one of the vets, a man in his seventies, had to be rushed to the emergency room with a dislocated shoulder.
This is the first time in over seven months on tour with the book Peace in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless War (which she cowrote with Nicolas S.J. Davies) that she encountered violent protesters.
“I have had many protests outside my talks, and I have always stopped to talk to the protesters and invite them inside for a dialogue. These have usually ended up in very rich discussions where we agree to disagree,” said Benjamin. “But this group was not interested in dialogue. Some of them were full of hate and itching for a fight. I was appalled, and deeply saddened, by their behavior.”
We firmly believe in the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression, but this does not include engaging in aggressive behavior, physical violence, or causing harm to individuals or their personal property.
We call upon all individuals involved in this incident to reflect upon their actions and recognize the importance of peaceful and respectful dialogue. We call on those protesters who did not engage in violence to denounce those who did and demand an apology.
We stand in solidarity with our co-founder Medea Benjamin, the event hosts Woman Against Military Madness and Veterans for Peace, and all individuals who were affected by this regrettable event. We send our love and support to the Veterans for Peace member who was hurt by the protesters. We reiterate our commitment to fostering a society where differing opinions can be shared and debated in a peaceful and respectful manner, free from aggression and violence.
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Medea Benjamin has chosen to provide a very distorted summary of what took place last Friday May 19th in South Minneapolis. I speak as one of the organizers, participant and victim of a violent attack made by a member of Minneapolis’s Veterans for Peace. Before discussing the actual confrontation it’s important in my political opinion to discuss why members of the Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity Campaign, Ukrainian Solidarity,
The American Indian Movement of the Twin Cities, members of Minnesota Alliance For Peacemakers, individuals associated with Veterans for Peace and the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria gathered together to protest and condemn Ms Benjamin;s alleged standing as an activist for peace while supporting another imperialist Russia whose invaded Ukraine for conquest.
When Ms Benjamin states that there are differences she grossly understates the political differences here. We, the organizations and individual political activists noted herein support Ukraine’s Right to Self Determination and is Right to Self Defense, Yes, this means that we support Ukraine obtaining weapons from US and its “Western” imperialist allies; while simultaneously demanding that all “Aid” be zeroed out (no repayment) and that the US and the EU allow Ukraine to asset its independence after defeating Russian imperialism.
Ms Benjamin asserts there must be everything from an immediate ceasefire to the US negotiating a forced peace upon the invaded country. Serious anti-imperialists can have legitimate political differences but these must be principled not Russian imperialist talking points given that any “ceasefire” would allow Russia to rearm and oppress even more Ukrainians and/or deport thousands more Ukrainian children on top of the 14,000 previously kidnapped who’re being turned into being Russian with those who resist being treated cruelly and harshly.. As for demanding that the US negotiate while Ms Benjamin also asserts that all u&S aid must cease needs to explain to us how both these can simultaneously occur whilst she additionally claims this is a Proxy War while the aledged Proxy cannot obtain enough ammunition or weapons. I honestly do not know Ns Benjamin’s real motivations but frankly given that she essentially has positions that correlate q to 1 with the vicious imperialist Vlad Putin I and others have concluded that Ms Benjamin supports Russian imperialism, something that should horrify honest activists of all kinds.
As for our demonstration and what occurred I will try to provide as an objective view as possible. I consulted others who attended some who actively did so while others simply observed. As these individuals asked to not use their names I will refer to them as either Dick or Jane.. We gathered on South 42nd Street at Cedar Avenue in South Minneapolis close to 5:30 pm with more people joining with a total of between 15 to 20 people. We initially began chanting on 42nd Street but when more people arrived we moved to the public sidewalk and began chanting. (Just a notation here that there was considerable construction with new curbing and your typical construction scene that made a crowded sidewalk almost impassable)., As we marched in an elliptical circle individual members of Women Against Military Madness and VFP provocatively tried engaging us by hurling claims that “your supporting Nazis running around Ukraine” and my personal favorite “why haven’t you condemned Ukraine’s invasion of Russia”? (referring to the Kievan Rus 893CE to approximately 1050 CE prior to Russia becoming a country). These exchanges within our ranks are important because they intensified the acrimony. These people were darting in and out and then retreating onto their private property where they told us we couldn’t go. At one point an older tall man tried to rip up a sign being carried by Dick who’d also been engaged in several heated exchanges. Then, not succeeding in destroying our signs this guy who was identified by Jane as Craig Woid threw a punch at Dick. Missed then bull rushed our line violently. This resulted in Craig and Dick going down and this writer (I’m 78 and disabled with a Spinal Cord Injury) knocked into the street. When I got up I saw that the individual identified as Craig Wood had gone inside the building while Dick was engaged arguing at the doorway where he was told that yes this was a public event but in spite of receiving an invitation to attend he could not. Dick held his ground and the heated political exchange continued.. I will note that I heard someone say during the scuffle initiated by Craig Wood say “he has my cellphone, though no one on our side had someone else;s cellphone. Soon thereafter the owner of the building Dave Bicking (who I remember being in our University of MN SDS chapter) called the police. The MPD then arrived primarily observed finally asking Dick to leave which he and the rest of us did. In closing Mr Wood initiated the violence. That he has a dislocated shoulder is his own fault and foisting this violence this thuggery at our doorstep is reprehensible of Benjamin but par for the course. As our chant noted Benjamin lies Ukrainians die.