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News ::
MLK-Day Peace Rally in Willimantic, Connecticut (english)
23 Jan 2003
A report from a northeastern Connecticut town about their Martin Luther King Day peace protest. (article 4)
MLK-Day Peace Rally in Willimantic, Connecticut
by George King IV

On the Martin Luther King holiday -- January 20, 2003 -- Willimantic, Connecticut, saw nearly 300 people turn out for a demonstration against the possible intensification of the U.S. war against Iraq.

Under the golden gaze of the statues on the frog bridge, nearly three hundred people demonstrated in Willimantic for peace. These opponents of a U.S. war against Iraq met at the intersection of Jackson and Main at noon on Martin Luther King Day (January 20, 2003) to share their views with fellow citizens and passers by. The gathering generated a generally positive reaction, with the drivers of many cars -- and even a few tractor-trailer trucks -- honking in support. In their efforts to protect lives and liberties, the demonstrators also had to protect themselves from the windy, 30-degree, January chill.

After standing at the corners for some time, a large group of people hiked to the other side of the bridge, then back again. Then everyone went up Main Street to the vicinity of Town Hall, the Main Street Cafe (which in the former post office building), and the Connecticut Army National Guard recruiting office. Around 1pm, people started to head back and disperse. A sign-painting party was scheduled for the afternoon at the West Avenue Community Center.

The event was organized by the Northeastern Connecticut Coalition for Peace and Justice, and timed to occur on the Martin Luther King Day holiday. This was also the day of the printing of a peace message advertisement in the local newspaper. The number of signatories was over two-hundred, besting the total of eighty who signed a similar advertisement late last year.

Image 1: A bridge frog looks on from the southwest corner of the intersection of Jackson and Main.
Image 2: A view of the southeast corner. Signs include King's famous quote about U.S. government violence, and "Running Out of Patience with BUSH".
Image 3: A banner, at the northeast corner of Jackson and Main, with another quote from Dr. King.
Image 4: Another banner, at the northeast corner. These issues are important to Willimantic, especially with the recession hitting.
Image 5: The long view down Main Street from Jillson House to the intersection.
Image 6: Many of the demonstrators marched up (the sidewalks of) Main Street. Here several people greet motorists in front of the Connecticut Army National Guard recruiting office.
Image 7: Here, a spirited contingent marches past the old Chinese restaurant on Main.

Another report about this demonstration, from the Willimantic Chronicle, can be found at: News

Willimantic is a former mill town, once famous for its thread manufacturing. It was once one of the few train stops between New York and Rhode Island. The loss of this industrial base has been followed by the effects of shopping malls and "big box stores" draining business from the downtown. Despite these conditions, many local people have carved a niche for themselves. This part of Connecticut is still comparatively rural, so there are many farms in the area. Some of them supply produce to the Willimantic Food Co-op. Other locally-owned businesses include Hosmer Soda and the city newspaper, the Chronicle. Willimantic is home to impressive mill buildings, numerous Victorian houses, the annual Boombox Parade, the Windham Area Poetry Project, Julia de Burgos Park, and Eastern Connecticut State University, and it is nearby the main campus of the University of Connecticut. The local activist community is eclectic, drawing from students and other people affiliated with the universities, the local Latino community (primarily Puerto Rican), Greens, and unionized labor. Current issues include a battle against a Home Depot hardware store, state budget cuts to important social services, the recession in general, the fate of the mill buildings, and drug abuse and its accompanying media stereotypes.