Drivers honked intermittently at a group of demonstrators in front of the Monroe County Courthouse on Sunday afternoon. With posters and wooden peace signs in hand, the group cried out chants in protest of any American violence in Russia or Ukraine and NATO.
There continue to be reports of rising tension in Ukraine after artillery shells caused damage in the country over the last several days. The New York Times reported five Ukrainian soldiers have been wounded and two killed in the shelling from Russian-backed separatists.
As the demonstration in Bloomington continued, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian Leader Vladimir Putin worked to plan a meeting in favor of a ceasefire. In addition, the White House announced a tentative meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Putin, so long as there is no Russian invasion beforehand.
Many Ukrainians are still continuing with their daily lives. However, some citizens are preparing for possible conflict by taking up weapons themselves.
Senior Quinton Deppert, IU senior and member of the Bloomington chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, arrived with a megaphone to speak out against conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
“I think when you arm more people, you only create more possibility for conflict,” Deppert said. “It’s this idea that if you’re fighting for peace with violence.”
The 25 other demonstrators at the protest held signs reading “U.S. war machine: Real threat to peace,” and “Disband NATO.” Deppert led the group through multiple chants such as “No wars, no lies, no missiles in our skies.”
President Biden said on Feb. 13 that he had no intentions of deploying troops to Ukraine, saying war between the two global powers would have much larger implications.
“That's a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another,” Biden said.
While high-ranking White House officials made public demands for peace between the two countries, Deppert and other demonstrators are worried about American involvement. The group referenced instances of government-sanctioned U.S. violence in other countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Deppert said media reports have placed too much emphasis on claims from the American government that Russian invasion is imminent, leading to more fear in the U.S. and for American allies.
Bloomington resident Keegan Gulick came to the demonstration on his bike, just as the group started to form.
“I’m against war in general,” he said. “I think both sides need to de-escalate.”
Keegan agreed major media outlets in the U.S. offer a Western-centric approach, making it difficult for others to understand how much of a role the U.S. plays in the conflict, he said.
Sunday’s demonstration was organized by ANSWER Indiana, a chapter of the ANSWER Coalition, which is an anti-war movement founded in 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks.
IU sophomores and ANSWER members, Ashley Culbertson and Luke Kubehl, read prepared statements in favor of disbanding NATO and stronger efforts for peace within American diplomacy. Bloomington resident Pat Saling led the group in song toward the end of the demonstration.
“Now is the time for the people to say no to new war or sanctions against Russia,” Saling said.