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Iowans Rally in Defense of Civil Liberties

Kathleen McQuillen
Kathleen McQuillen is AFSC Iowa Program Coordinator. Photo: Jon Krieg / AFSC

Kathleen McQuillen, AFSC Iowa Program Coordinator, shared the following statement at a September 30, 2010 rally in Des Moines.


It’s good to be with you today. It’s always good to be standing together to support the work for peace and justice in our communities and in our world.

The issue we address today is most troubling. Following quickly on the heels of revelations of the serious violations to the free speech rights of our friends in Iowa City, we learned the FBI raided the homes and offices of peace workers in Chicago and Minnesota—looking, they say, for signs of “material support” to those the US has labeled “terrorists.”  The FBI actions seriously violate the rights of the people and organizations involved while attempting through these actions to stifle dissent throughout the country. The US power structure would much prefer that only their storyline be told about the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan -- only their storyline be told about the US role in Colombia and Palestine, and on and on.

While the US government is waging wars on the peoples of these lands, the government is at the same time within our own country waging war on the US Constitution and those who seek to live out its spirit; those who, as Quakers say, “speak truth to power.” We know this is not a new challenge. The American Friends Service Committee and many of you and your organizations have witnessed and resisted this kind of action in years past. The images of government excess and abuse come quickly to mind -- the McCarthy era, the Vietnam and civil rights years, and the solidarity struggles  during the Central America wars remind us always of the efforts to silence the dissenters.

While the US government is waging wars and using napalm and unmanned drones on the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan it simply does not have credibility in its attempts to label others as terrorists.

I affirm that the American Friends Service Committee stands in solidarity with each of you here today, and with the nonviolent liberation struggles across the globe.

Let us remember and be emboldened by the wisdom of the one-time slave Frederick Douglass, who said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.…”

Let us be clear to all who are listening: we will not submit.