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Star Tribune

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 5 months ago

 

They come in peace, every week

 

Meet the group of suburban protesters standing on your street corner.

 

 

By Jenna Ross, Star Tribune

April 24, 2007

 

Fewer people give Carole Rydberg the finger these days.

 

In fact, many middle fingers have been replaced with peace signs, smiles and waves.

 

Rydberg, 68, and other members of Northwest Neighbors for Peace stand on suburban street corners and protest the war in Iraq. Every week. Since 2005.

 

In doing so, they've witnessed the shift in public opinion about the war. And, they sometimes venture to think, they might have nudged that shift.

 

"We're just one group, but I think collectively, our efforts across the country are paying off," said Linda Thomson of Plymouth.

 

It all began Sept. 9, 2004, when MoveOn.org organized vigils across the country after the 1,000th U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq. Rydberg and her husband attended and met a few other northwest suburban residents.

 

 

They found each other again at a vigil when the 2,000th soldier was killed. Soon, they became a cohesive group that met monthly and protested weekly in Plymouth and New Hope. Now, the group has moved its Plymouth protest to Minnetonka. More than 250 people subscribe to the organization's e-mail list.

 

Many of the protesters are gray-haired. Jan Scofield, 72, used to have to take time off from work to protest. Now she's able to attend two or more groups' demonstrations a week.

 

In last week's breezy, sunny spring weather, 15 group members showed up between 4:30 and 6 p.m. on the corner of 42nd Avenue N. and Winnetka Avenue in New Hope. Most January weeks, there were fewer.

 

 

But even on the roughest, coldest days, the protesters received a bit of help that warmed them. They tell the stories amongst themselves so often they're legend:

 

On one particularly frigid day, a woman stopped, saw the group, went to Starbucks and returned with a cup of hot chocolate for each person.

 

Another time, a kind soul came over with bags of rolls from a nearby bakery.

 

"People are so neat," Rydberg said.

 

 

Rydberg, who is the communicator of the group, has perfected her protesting technique.

 

"There's a method to it," she said. She demonstrates: "When the car stops, I go down, down, down, down," she said, pacing. "Then I walk back, back, back, back. Then I reverse it. I never get too close to the corner, because I don't want to distract people driving."

 

 

Rydberg, like other group members, has a long history of activism -- in her case, since she began pushing for civil rights in Detroit in the 1950s. Her interest began when one day in 1955, she learned from a black high school classmate that in many companies, black people could work in assembly lines but not in offices. "That was the day that I became a civil rights activist," she said.

 

In the 1960s and 1970s she protested for equal rights and against the Vietnam War. She has remained involved in peace and justice groups since.

 

Rydberg has a quiet manner. She won't argue with someone who supports the war, she said, because she understands "it's a tough decision."

 

But when someone pulls up to her intersection, honks and gives her the bird, she gets sneaky.

 

"I always just give back the peace sign. That way they think, oh, she must have misunderstood," she said.

 

"It's cruel."

 

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Photo by Jennifer Simonson , Star Tribune - Published April 24, 2007

 

Plymouth residents Carole Rydberg, left, and Linda Thomson, center, demonstrated at 42nd and Winnetka avenues in New Hope last week. The group, Northwest Neighbors for Peace, is there each Thursday during the evening rush hour, and it also protests in Minnetonka.

 

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Related Content

NORTHWEST NEIGHBORS FOR PEACE

 

What: Peace group loosely affiliated with Minnesota Neighbors for Peace

 

Where you've seen them: Protests in Plymouth, New Hope and now Minnetonka

 

Programming: The group hosts movie nights, lectures and other events dedicated to peace, justice and environmentalism

 

More information: nwn4p.pbwiki.com

 

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Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

 

Jenna Ross • jross@startribune.com

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