Die-in protests Iraq War, provokes reflection

Commuters in Downtown Des Moines were presented with an unusual but sobering sight on Friday, March 28. The usually sparse Nollen Plaza, a hub of downtown Des Moines, was coated with over 100 people lying down in silence. Some were dressed in all black; some were covered by “blood.” Most of them were high school students. The event, “Five Years of an Unjust War is Five Too Many: Die-in Against the War,” was organized by Students Beyond War, a high school peace group centered in Des Moines. In the past, the group has help nonviolent sit-ins at Congressional offices. The die-in was designed to provide a visual display of the effect of the war on the Iraqi people. “We felt the die-in would be an effective event because it is simple and has a clear focus,” said Dowling Catholic senior Nate Looker, a member of the group “It’s easy to lose touch with the nature of war when we’re in such a generally prosperous country.” The entire group laid in silence for about an hour, mimicking death. Passers-by occasionally honked in support, but most were impressed by the solemnity of the event. There were a few hecklers, but heckling is generally ineffective when directed at people who are in complete silence, so no escalation occurred. “I really enjoyed doing the die-in because the group was making a physical, not just a verbal point,” said Ames High senior Laura King, who attended the event. “I also liked how many people were able to get involved on the same level. With something like this going on, we can’t just be bystanders.” To more clearly illustrate their point, each student wore a sign that read “40 Americans, 1,510 Iraqis” to show how many people were represented by each protester. The number was especially meaningful, because the American casualty count in Iraq recently passed 4,000 people. “This was a wonderful example of how to wage peace in the world,” said Jeffery Weiss, Peace Education Director at the American Friends Service Committee in Des Moines. Weiss attracted extra attention for the group by dressing as the Grim Reaper and holding a sign directing people to look at the display. While the group has no immediate plans for future events, they have no intentions of backing down as the school year winds to a close. “We can’t stop protesting now,” Looker said, “It’s too important. There’s too much at stake.”