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Events planned for Afghan War anniversary

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Events planned to recognize the effects of the Afghan War

  •  An Evening With Anand Gopal - 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 8 at Calvin College's Commons Lecture Hall (1835 Knollcrest Circle SE)
  • March to Count the Cost - Noon on Saturday, Oct. 9 at Central High School (421 Fountain NE)

This week marks the nine-year anniversary of the United States' occupation of Afghanistan.  A group of concerned citizens called Grand Rapids for Justice and Peace in Afghanistan has a series of events planned to commemorate the anniversary as well as to raise awareness about how much the occupation has cost tax payers in Grand Rapids.

On Friday, Oct. 8, the group will host “An Evening with Journalist Anand Gopal.” Anand Gopal has been reporting from on the ground in Afghanistan for much of the occupation. His articles have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and the Christian Science Monitor.

Stelle Slootmaker, one of the organizers of the events, said she believes that the perspective Gopal will offer will be of great value.

Gopal will be able to give us a picture of how the occupation is truly impacting people living in Afghanistan,” Slootmaker said. “He will give us an account that mainstream media neglects to do. The media rarely talks about how much the occupation of Afghanistan is costing us. US casualties are downplayed. Afghani casualties are ignored.”

Gopal’s talk will occur at 7 p.m. on Friday night at Calvin College's Commons Lecture Hall. The event is free and open to the public although donations will be accepted to help cover Gopal’s travel and lodging expenses.

On Saturday, Oct. 9, the group is planning a march to "Count the Cost." The press release for the event cites the web site, which calculates how much money the war has cost not only the United States but states and individual communities. At the time this article was published, the cost for Grand Rapids was approaching $185,000,000.

One thing that separates the march scheduled for Saturday from many in the past was the decision to go through city neighborhoods rather than hold it downtown. The march will begin in Heritage Hill at the old Central High School on Fountain Street. Protestors will go through areas like the Baxter neighborhood on the way to Martin Luther King Park.

Fellow organizer Jeff Smith said that the decision to march through neighborhoods “is based on wanting to make the link between how much money has left this community to fund the war in Afghanistan and how it impacts people at the neighborhood level. People have had their homes foreclosed, have seen their schools losing funding or close and virtually every neighborhood has someone with a family member who has been emotionally traumatized, physically wounded or killed because of the nine-year US occupation of Afghanistan”.

The march will begin at noon on Saturday at Central High School on Fountain Street in the Heritage Hill neighborhood. Last Thursday, Grand Rapids for Justice and Peace in Afghanistan held a fundraiser at Billy’s Lounge in Eastown with proceeds benefitting the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) as well as the local group Healing Children of Conflict.

Disclosure: I attended a couple of the meetings where these events were planned.

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 Thanks, Nick! Here is a link to the map that the route will take on Saturday.

We'll have lots of information & speakers along the way, and will probably get to Martin Luther King Park around 2pm. I am looking forward to seeing what better ideas people have for the money we're currently wasting in this endless war!


I am so glad to see you covered this event. I am glad to be part of this event and able to offer my help. As a former Infantry soldier, and someone who has lost buddies in Afganistan, I think it is important for all veterans to get involved to fight the war at home to end the foreign policy blunder over there.