Protest planning convention held at U

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More than 100 groups from across the country attended the event.

Though the Republican National Convention is still six months away, anti-war activists gathered in Blegen Hall during the weekend to discuss protest plans.

On Saturday and Sunday, members from various organizations against wars abroad and, more generally, Republican policies held a conference to mobilize and recruit protestors to speak against this year’s convention in St. Paul.

“In six months, the biggest gathering of war criminals will come to the Twin Cities,” said Sara Flounders, a member of the Troops Out Now Coalition.

But University alumnus and Republican Brian Bussey doesn’t agree.

“I think she’s naïve,” he said. “The convention will bring a lot of money to the city, and any time you have a convention, there will be protestors against both sides.”

Bussey said he doesn’t think it’s a good idea to pull the troops out now. He said terrorist attacks against America warranted retaliation.

The two-day Blegen Hall conference featured representatives from national organizations such as United for Peace and Justice, International ANSWER, Latinos Against War and the Welfare Rights Committee.

The organizations are part of the anti-war committee who spoke to about 150 participants regarding topics such as health care, immigration rights and education.

Leslie Cagan, member of United for Peace and Justice and a participant in a protest of the 2004 Republican convention in New York, said students are an important aspect to the demonstration.

“Students and young people are critical to this movement and any movement for change,” she said.

Cagan said she thinks the money spent on the war could be better used to help lower the cost of college tuition.

Flounders said young people don’t just suffer from the economic problems of the war.

“Young people are fighting in a war that’s not in their interests,” she said.

Anh Pham, an anti-war committee member, said today’s college freshmen have not known what it’s like to live without a war since the Gulf War started in 1990.

Students for a Democratic Society, a national student organization with a University chapter, also helped organize the anti-war conference.

Group member Tracy Molm said the goal of the conference was to bring as many people together to have the biggest protest in September. She said the group has been planning for this conference since last November.

Molm said SDS is planning events at the University, including a fundraiser, to promote September’s protest.

Also to commemorate the five-year anniversary of the Iraq war, the anti-war committee will hold a rally in March at Xcel Energy Center, the site of September’s convention.

The anti-war committee has received a permit from state officials to rally in September and will seek approval from city of St. Paul officials. Applications aren’t being accepted until March, according to the Associated Press.

Conference organizers said they will protest the rally in September whether St. Paul officials grant them a permit to do so or not.

“(New York officials) could not stop us,” Cagan said.

“Their refusal to give us the permit we wanted did not stop the determination of at least 500,000 people from making their voice heard.”

-The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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