Protesters stage funeral procession through downtown
By Katherine A. Reilly
(Created 11/8/00 9:49:45 AM)
On Nov. 1, the Mexican Day of the Dead, approximately 100 people participated in a funeral procession protesting Alliant Techsystems involvement in the production of weapons. The protest was sponsored by AlliantAction, an organization that advocates for the use of U.S. tax money to fund human needs rather than military.
Alliant is a supplier of aerospace and defense products to the U.S. government, its allies and contractors, according to information on the companys Web site.
The protesters led off with a pledge to practice non-violence and then participated in a call and response litany that included the questions Do you choose $17 billion for 10,000 nuclear weapons? and Do you choose $17 billion to hire 425,000 new teachers in the U.S.?
Dressed in black and wearing white death masks the protesters silently marched the 1.2 miles to Alliants corporate headquarters on Northeast Second Street accompanied solely by drumming.
Prior to this protest representatives from AlliantAction and the Hopkins Police Department met to discuss what the protesters plan was, said Sgt. Tony Hanlin. We routinely check their Web site to see their activities and we know that about every six months they have a bigger activity, he said.
They have always been up front and accurate, said Hanlin. If they say they are not going to be arrested, they arent.
When the protesters arrived at Alliant they said prayers in remembrance of the dead left in the wake of Alliant Tech weapons, said one participant through a bullhorn. Protesters sprinkled ashes on the sidewalk.
Minneapolis resident Carol Masters said she planted irises in front of Alliant, in memory of people killed by Alliants weapons, particularly children.
Masters said the march was intended to, bring the attention of the people of Hopkins to what is going on in their community. Particularly the disparity between the military budget and money to fund human needs.
Said Masters to Alliant Tech officials across the road, I put [the irises] in the earth as you have put so many children in the earth.
Anne Newhart said she participated in the protest because she doesnt like living in a community where there is the production of products that kill people. I would like to have Alliant Tech convert and make products that are useful and life-enhancing for people, the Minneapolis resident said. Whatever good Alliant Tech does in the community is at the expense of lives.
Alliants Director of Public Affairs Rod Bitz said his company has good dialogue with the AlliantAction leadership. Our position is that they have every right to exercise free speech on public property but we cant have them block our doors and hinder our employees from getting to work, said Bitz.
In response to protesters allegations that tax dollars are better spent on things other than weapons, Bitz said, This nation needs a strong national defense.
As a company we are proud and our employees are proud to do what we can to contribute so the country has a strong defense, he said. The irony is that going back to free speech it is precisely a strong national defense that preserves free speech and their right to do what they do.
Bitz said Alliant has never pressed charges against protesters and that it is up to the Hopkins City Attorney to do so.
Sgt. Hanlin said protesters who trespass on Alliant property are arrested and charged with trespassing. He said to date all judges have acquitted the protesters of trespassing.
However, three protesters involved in throwing red paint on Alliant property in June have been charged with felony level damage to property and are awaiting trial, Hanlin said.
As long as they stay where they are supposed to, it is their right as Americans, said Hanlin. We are here to defend and guard everybodys rights. If they choose to do civil disobedience we take action.
To their credit they have always been non-violent, Hanlin said.
The Nov. 1 protest lasted about an hour and a half, without any civil disobedience. Protesters dispersed just prior to 9 a.m.