Democracy in action was the headline attached to Tuesday’s front page story of the Brainerd Dispatch that documented the protest and counter protest of the war in Afghanistan and the use of drones by the U.S. military. The demonstrations took place just outside of the main entrance to Camp Ripley.
Each group was relatively small. Each group was demonstrating to get its point across to those observing the event.
A Little Falls based group, all 11 of them — Little Falls Partners for Peace — was at the Army National Guard Camp Ripley to demand an immediate pull-out of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the cessation of drone warfare, which the group alleges is indiscriminate.
On the other side of County Road 115, were counter protestors, headed by a group of 20 veterans of Afghanistan and Vietnam.
What was actually taking place Monday was American democracy in action. It was peaceful demonstration and exercise of free speech by two groups with opposing points of view. It was peaceful. It was lawful. It was the essence of what America stands for and why our Constitution guarantees the rights of both groups to clearly demonstrate and state their views.
Perhaps the demonstration and counter demonstration was summed up best by Camp Ripley Post Commander Col. Scott St. Sauver who watched the activity from inside the main gate to the camp: “The reason we (the U.S. military) do what we do is so they can exercise their rights. So that’s pretty important.”
Col. St. Sauver got it right. Each group that chose to face off on an issue of national, regional and personal importance was well within their rights as citizens to disagree without resorting to violence.
Both groups and the men and women of Camp Ripley are to be commended for their restraint and their willingness to actively demonstrate their beliefs.