On the afternoon of Oct. 16, a group of 15 Knox students belonging to the Alliance for Peaceful Action (APA) joined members of the global community along the business streets of downtown Chicago to participate in the Midwest Regional March and Rally. While the event sought to advocate peace and justice by attacking a broad scope of political, social and human rights issues, it was ultimately held in honor of the nine-year anniversary of the war in Afghanistan.
Freshman Addie Larson characterized the nature of the event by saying, “The rally was peaceful. People were yelling chants so that others knew exactly where we stood on everything. No one was looking to fight with the police. We were simply practicing our right to free speech.”
Reflecting on the variety of racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds of event attendees, Larson said, “There was a great amount of diversity at the march, which was great because it made the point of the rally that much stronger and showed how many people were united with the mission of the rally.” The diversity of people at the march paralleled the diversity of topics addressed, some of which included housing, equality, racism, LGBT rights, illegal immigration and unemployment.
Knox students expressed contagious enthusiasm about their opportunity to participate in this year’s APA Chicago trip. Co-President of APA senior Abraham Diekhans-Mears said that bringing Knox students to the march allowed him to “solidify support for the club and build an understanding for the club within the Knox community.” The general consensus of Knox rally participants was that the event balanced peaceable assembly with strong solidarity.
The fundamental goal of APA, as described in the club’s mission statement, is to “raise awareness and support for human rights all over the world.” In order to pursue this goal, APA strives for social justice and action both inside and outside the radical march setting. Diekhans-Mears ensures that speakers, films and recreational activities give the club issues to talk about on a weekly basis, despite the small size of the club.
The Midwest Regional March and Rally was certainly not the only anti-war and social justice event that has engaged APA members at Knox. Co-President of APA and senior Rose Worthen said, “We always try to integrate new things, like the Midwest Regional March and Rally, into old activities. Every year we do a fall protest trip. We also hold a symposium, where we pick a subject as a group, and different Knox organizations contribute to the event. We always sponsor speakers for the Free Trade vs. Fair Trade event during the spring, where people sell fair trade products and spread awareness about the benefits of fair trade.”
Planning social justice rallies outside the confines of Knox campus is a process that demands a great deal of attention from the state. Diekhans-Mears communicated that necessary components of this process include “getting permission to air the event, planning the march with the police, going over rules for activists, and establishing hierarchy at the event.” He said, “Creating an atmosphere of timidness is often inevitable,” since the state imposes so many regulations on permitted rally activities in order to maintain a stable environment.
Even though Worthen said, “At rallies and marches that Knox participates in, I don’t see people getting angry and intense like they used to,” she said, “We always stay prepared, stick together and gather everyone’s contact information during these events.”
While security measures taken up by the state are intended to ensure that social justice events do not impinge upon the safety of community members, Diekhans-Mears said, “An ideal rally would be one that is spontaneous to the state.” The purpose of such a rally would be to give people the opportunity to “make a statement about a political or economic system that isn’t caring for their needs,” he said.
Diekhans-Mears further vocalized the ultimate worry of Knox APA members, saying, “When we live in a comfortable atmosphere, it’s easy to get complacent.” To prevent Knox students from submitting to inaction on topics that should be brought into awareness, Worthen proposed that subjects relevant to political activism be addressed in the classroom setting.
In evaluating her personal journey with social activism, Worthen said, “I knew I wanted to help with human rights issues when I arrived at Knox, but I learned outside the classroom how to get involved with social activism. Conversation would be expanded if we looked to the classroom setting to discuss social justice, starting with FP class.”
Before pursuing the goal of integrating concepts associated with social justice into the Knox classroom experience, APA urges the Knox community to join the Galesburg community in attending an event called “A More Perfect Union” this upcoming weekend.