In recent months, Americans have become accustomed to dramatic news stories about marches and protests.
Here, instead, is a story about a walk that’s been going on in Cambridge every other weekend for over a decade.
The Peace Walk, as it’s known, began in May 2002. It is not a march, but the walkers do carry signs. They focus broadly on peace and justice, rather than more partisan issues, although some of their signs do mention environmental causes, too.
If you live in Cambridge, you may have seen them. They walk at 9 a.m. every other Saturday, leaving from the parking lot at the intersection of Birch Street North and Highway 95. They get a few supportive honks from motorists, and a few less supportive hand gestures, each Saturday they walk.
Susan Blom and Robert Lininger started walking in 2002 and continued until about 2010. They joined the walk again this year and said it was important to the peace walkers to express concern over the war without expressing negativity toward the individuals fighting it and commanding it.
“The peace walk for us is a concrete way to express our desire not only for peace, but also for justice, and to practice our First Amendment rights of freedom of speech in a nonviolent way,” Blom said. “We believe in practicing peace in our daily life toward others and all other living things.”
The focus on promoting peace is important to the walkers: They want to welcome people from all walks of life and all political persuasions to join them on the walk.
“We believe it is important to express our opinions in our democracy in a respectful way and welcome anyone joining us who has similar desires for peace and wants to express their desires in positive ways,” Lininger said.
Isanti County Judge James Dehn is a longtime peace walker as well.
“I started Peace Walking (not marching) about 2004 or 2005,” Dehn said. “We had 10 to 15 committed folks in the early years, and that trimmed down to about three to five during the Obama years.”
During those years of lower attendance, the walkers figured they might stop walking once Alf Stratte, who is the oldest peace walker at 89, and one of the first, was no longer physically able. Stratte carries the American flag during the Peace Walk, which is just one small part of the 6 miles he walks every day he can. However, attendance at the walk has picked up again in recent weeks. At the walk on Saturday, March 4, there were 14 walkers present, and Dehn was missing to judge a mock trial competition that morning.
Blom and Lininger don’t pretend their renewed involvement with the walk is totally unrelated to recent political developments.
“The current atmosphere of fear and hate is disturbing to us, since we believe in appreciation of all people regardless of race, nationality, gender, gender preference, religion, or political affiliation,” Blom said.
Although the Peace Walk has now been going on across three separate presidential administrations, the walkers continue to feel that walking is important.
Wendy Bronson joined the walk when she moved to Cambridge in 2008. She recalls learning about the group through the Isanti County Environmental Coalition.
“I think as long as we give people hope and help them to think about alternatives to what our governments are doing or to what might be happening in their personal lives, what we are doing is important,” Bronson said.
The goal for the walkers is to promote peace in the world by promoting peace in their community.
“Change occurs when people come to see the world in a new way, to think about things differently and to see new possibilities for action,” Bronson said. “That can happen in communities of any size, at any time. It can definitely happen here in Cambridge.”