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Ten activists arrested following Duluth anti-war rally

Ten peace activists were arrested on trespassing charges by Duluth police this afternoon as they blocked the entrance of the Federal Building in the Civic Center between 2 and 3 p.m.

Ten peace activists were arrested on trespassing charges by Duluth police this afternoon as they blocked the entrance of the Federal Building in the Civic Center between 2 and 3 p.m.

A woman officer with the Federal Protective Service told the protesters: "You're blocking the entrance. Get up. If you do not, consider this a trespassing and you will be arrested. I'd appreciate it if you did get up now. Please get up."

She was ignored as the seven men and three woman protesters smiled and talked among themselves. The officer then asked each protester individually if they would get up from the entrance. They would not.

About a dozen Duluth police officers and transport deputies with the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene. The protesters were handcuffed and led -- in one case carried -- to two vans for transport to jail. Their supporters softly sang "We Shall Overcome."

Peace activists held up photo cell phones to record the arrests, and Duluth police Sgt. Robin Roeser operated a video camera to record the entire 38-minute peaceful incident to give police their own evidentiary record of the arrests.

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"I think it was handled very well by our personnel, nobody was injured and we did what we had to do here based upon the people not being willing to leave,'' said Duluth police Lt. Kerry Kolodge. "They were given plenty of chance to leave knowing full well they would be arrested for that.''

The protesters were jailed on misdemeanor trespassing charges for trespassing and refusing to depart from the premises on demand of the lawful possessor. Federal Protective Services requested Duluth police to assist.

The protest started with more than 200 people gathered at the Clayton, Jackson and McGhie Memorial this morning to march to a noon rally against the war in Iraq at Duluth's Civic Center.

To Michele Naar-Obed, a Christian Peacemaker Teams member and peace activist, it was appropriate that the march began at a memorial to three black men lynched by a white mob. The three, she told marchers, were victims of fear and racism, innocent scapegoats murdered for a rape they didn't commit. Similar fear, racism and a desire to find scapegoats is behind that war in Iraq.

"Big profits are being made off our fear" through the war she said. "Let us march out of the darkness of fear."

Today's march and rally are part of the Strike for Peace event, organized by the Northland Anti-War Coalition. The coalition urged peace advocates and opponents of the war in Iraq to skip work or cut classes and avoid stores, since, in the organizers' view, "business as usual" allows the war to continue.

In addition to the march and rally, today's events include workshops on peace and social justice topics at the Building for Women. The day ends with a fundraising concert featuring Sara Thomsen, Rachel Kilgour and Dave Hopkins from 7:30 to 11 p.m. at the Building for Women.

David Moulton of the collation helped organize today's event.

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"I was very pleased with the turnout at the workshops this morning," he said during the noon rally. "This is the largest rally I've been to at the Civic Center."

There are many reasons to be cynical about American politics, keynote speaker Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer told the crowd, "but we can't afford concede that arena."

Nelson-Pallmeyer, who teaches courses in justice and peace at St. Thomas, is considering running for the U.S. Senate.

He said America needs to be honest about the war in Iraq.

"The time to get out of Iraq is now," he said. "A lot of our hopes and dreams are held hostage by the war in Iraq."

Attending the march and rally was Jennifer Jones of Duluth, who said it was the first time she attended such an event. She said she came because she wanted to see what it was like standing with other people who feel the way she does about war.

"War causes more suffering than it solves problems," she said.

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