By Jennifer Wushke, office coordinator, Project Peacemakers and Cec Muldrew, editor, Update, Veterans Against Nuclear Arms.
June 3 was a beautiful hot and sunny day. The Winnipeg "air show" was incredibly well-attended and our group of protesters was relatively small, with about 25 in all. We were there in an attempt to challenge the military presence at the show.
The diversity of our group, which was not unified by single a faith or
organization, was exciting and inspiring. It illustrated the widespread concern about this event. We garnered attention through two separate actions:
leafleting and mourning.
Protesters at the entrance focused on the UN Year for a Culture of Peace. Pamphlets were handed out to contrast the war show with the UN declaration that the year 2000 is supposed to promote peace and the non-violent resolution of conflict. Our banner asked, "UN year of culture of peace: Why all the killing machines?"
About 12 of us went inside the show. Some were shocked at how strong and pervasive the military presence was. Rather than the usual face painting, children had green and black camouflage paint. They were encouraged to crawl through tanks, practice military maneuvers and point machine guns. There was even a blatant recruitment aspect with a "Now Hiring" booth. The few civilian aircraft were lost in the sea of bombers and other military craft.
Seven of us wore black T-shirts that we had painted with messages such as "Mourning War Deaths." We held hands and walked silently through the crowds. The rest gave our pamphlets and spoke with people who reacted to our action. Some handed out pamphlets for Project Peacemakers' subcommittee Building Peace Through Play with the title "I played with guns when I was a child and I'm okay."
Reaction was mixed. People were glad that we were not asking for the airshow to be cancelled outright (although without the military aspect, it would be unrecognizable). Some said that they had never thought of things that way before. And, of course, there were many hostile reactions. Security guards asked us to leave and called the police. We asked why, saying that we had paid to get in and were not being disruptive. The police said "This is not yet a police matter." They said they would ask us to leave if things escalated. We were there the entire day, followed by two security guards who said we could stay if we kept moving. They were unhappy if we stopped to talk or even to drink water. Whenever we did stop they would tell us to "keep moving." It was unnerving, but they were not as bad as they might have been.
Actions continue, as we write to express our concerns to the war show's corporate sponsors and to politicians. We have also invited war show organizers to meet with us. Three of our group had letters published in the Winnipeg Free Press. All in all, it was a very effective action
For more info., contact: Project Peacemakers, 745 Westminster Ave., Winnipeg, MB R3G 1A5. Tel.: (204) 775-8178 or VANA - Winnipeg, Box 85, Victoria Beach, Manitoba R0E 2C0. Tel.: (204) 756-3589