Minneapolis, MN – Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) is still saying “No to war” as the group celebrates 40 years of organizing and fighting back.
On January 16, 2022, people gathered on the spot where WAMM held its first demonstration in 1982. They stuck signs in the snowbanks and fences, and their chants were heard for blocks around, “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!” “Coups and sanctions cost lives, we don’t believe the media lies!”
Back in January 1982, more than 100 women attended the WAMM’s founding conference where they decided, “No meeting without action!” Kristin Dooley, WAMM’s director, described the first-ever march, “They braved the ungodly cold weather to walk along University Avenue near the University of Minnesota.” A New York Times reporter happened to drive by, took pictures and published the story. Soon newspapers across the country read about the group of women holding signs from Moms Against Bombs and Women Against Military Madness.
Dooley continued, “WAMM helps educate and helps us see the world and see the kind of things the U.S. government tries to pull here at home and abroad.”
People walking by the protest got to read all the signs WAMM has made over the years, “No tax money for war,” “Fund human needs not war,” “Abolish nuclear weapons,” “Stop U.S. bombing of Syria,” “Hands off Cuba,” “Hands off Ukraine,” and “Let Palestine live! End U.S. aid to Israel.”
Chants continued, “Money for jobs, not for war, end all sanctions now! Money for COVID relief, not for war, end all sanctions now!
Statements from founding members of WAMM were read to the crowd.
Founding member Polly Mann, now aged 102, had outlined her vision for the group, “We would have to get a grant to hire a staff person who would create an inventory of all the women’s groups in the country who have peace as an objective. This should include national offices of all U.S. churches. With such an inventory a national meeting would be held at which the subject of world peace would be the objective. For example, details should be sought such as recommended reading material, conferences, etc.”
Dorothy Van Soest, longtime member of WAMM and author of the recent novel Nuclear Option, paid homage, “Nuclear Option would not exist if it were not for the WAMM women whose unstoppable demands for a peaceful and just society have inspired and called me to action for 40 years. I am deeply grateful to Marianne Hamilton and Polly Mann who founded WAMM at Loretta’s Tea Room in Minneapolis in the fall of 1981 by bringing together eight other women – Cathy Anderson, Pam Costain, Moira Moga, Eleanor Otterness, Pat Powers, Mary Shepard, Lucille Speeter and Mary White – who, like them, were committed to challenging the shift in national priorities taking place at that time from human services to military spending. The spirit of that day is imbued within me and reflected in the character of the unstoppable protagonist of Nuclear Option, as well as in several other characters.”
Through the years, WAMM saw the importance of linking issues locally, nationally and internationally. They worked alongside many groups at the forefront of many social, economic and racial justice issues. Community members came to salute WAMM’s long history and honored them with praises.
Meredith Aby-Keirstead, Anti-War Committee member stated, “WAMM sees the relationship between U.S. foreign policy and the need to struggle for human rights here at home. We have walked on the picket lines together for nurses here in this city, marched together for Black lives and protested together against Line 3. WAMM knows our solidarity with other countries needs to extend to solidarity with others here at home.”
Dave Logsdon, president of Vets for Peace Chapter 27, said, “We Have one of the best and most vibrant chapters in the entire country. We’d be nowhere with the energy, knowledge and support of WAMM.”
Erica Zurawski of MN Immigrant Rights Action Committee said, “WAMM has been with us step by step in our struggle for immigrant rights since our founding in 2006. You have radical politics and don’t let that fade or die and never compromise your values. WAMM, you have taught us well.”
Sarah Martin, member of WAMM’s Middle East Committee, thanked everyone for being out and supporting WAMM today. She described how this committee came to be and how supporting the heroic people of Palestine and their struggle helped turn the tide on U.S. public opinion regarding Palestine. Martin proudly exclaimed, “WAMM is still saying no to war and declaring, ‘We demand justice, we demand peace!’”
The anniversary rally ended with a group photo and a march that continued down the block, intermingling with University of Minnesota Gopher’s fans as they were leaving the basketball game and hearing supporting honks from cars in the street.
Kim DeFranco is a member of Women Against Military Madness