We strongly condemn the deplorable actions of some of the protesters at Medea Benjamin’s book tour event on Friday, May 19 in Minneapolis, an event cosponsored by the local Veterans for Peace and Women Against Military Madness (WAMM). We believe that there are very legitimate, divergent positions on the war in Ukraine, even among people in the U.S. who have been longtime peace advocates. But there are ways of expressing that disagreement that are not legitimate. The violent incident that occurred on May 19 is an example of an unacceptable form of protest.
About 15 protesters gathered outside the event, chanting slogans such as “Medea Lies, Ukrainians Die.” The protesters were upset with Medea’s call for a ceasefire and peace talks, believing that the U.S. should continue to send weapons to Ukraine until they achieve victory. Medea, in her book and talks, calls this war a stalemate that is not winnable on the battlefield but could lead to World War III or a nuclear war. In the interest of ending the fighting and dying, she echoes the calls of many people and national leaders, from Pope Francis to Brazil’s President Lula, for immediate peace talks.
The most aggressive protestor, Kieran McKnutson, was screaming at Medea Benjamin that she was a Putin apologist and then grabbed her cell phone while she was attempting to film the situation. She called on members of Veterans for Peace for help to retrieve the phone. One of the vets, a man in his seventies, came to assist and was pummeled to the ground by McKnutson. McKnutson’s assault resulted in the veteran being taken to the emergency room with a dislocated shoulder and a black eye.
This is the first time in over seven months on tour with the book Peace in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless War (which she cowrote with Nicolas S.J. Davies) that she encountered violent protesters.
“I have had many protests outside my talks, and I have always stopped to talk to the protesters and invite them inside for a dialogue. These have usually ended up in very rich discussions where we agree to disagree,” said Benjamin. “But this group was not interested in dialogue. Some of them were full of hate and itching for a fight. I was appalled, and deeply saddened, by their behavior.”
We firmly believe in the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression, but this does not include engaging in aggressive behavior, physical violence, or causing harm to individuals or their personal property.
We call upon all individuals involved in this incident to reflect upon their actions and recognize the importance of peaceful and respectful dialogue. We call on those protesters who did not engage in violence to denounce those who did and demand an apology.
We stand in solidarity with our co-founder Medea Benjamin, the event hosts Woman Against Military Madness and Veterans for Peace, and all individuals who were affected by this regrettable event. We send our love and support to the Veterans for Peace member who was hurt by the protesters. We reiterate our commitment to fostering a society where differing opinions can be shared and debated in a peaceful and respectful manner, free from aggression and violence.
This content originally appeared on Dissident Voice and was authored by Codepink.