March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Activists march to Capitol calling for peace commission

Tracy Key/City Pulse

Click here for an extended audio interview with state Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, about the peace movement.

Wednesday, Aug. 10 — An enormous white cloth dove, carried by peace activists, flapped and fluttered in the gentle breeze Tuesday morning at the Capitol, where a 10-day peace walk campaign finally reached the finish line calling for a state Commission for Peace and Justice.

Moveable Peace is a statewide organization that strives to “move Michigan in a positive direction by including peace groups in the state structure,” said Colleen Mills, the president of Citizens for Peace, as she delivered a speech on the Capitol steps.

“The goal of Moveable Peace is to create a culture of sustainable peace with wider prosperity in Michigan,” said Kevin “Mr. Peace” Szawala, a hip-hop artist, motivational speaker and statewide coordinator of the Department of Peace Campaign.

The group has worked toward this goal by promoting peace-oriented legislation, creating community events to spread awareness and community involvement in the peace movement and encouraging individuals to reach out to the government by expressing their concerns, struggles and goals. Other focuses of the organization include social justice, alternatives to violence and environmental action.

The Peace Walk to Lansing featured three different legs, one beginning on July 30 in Detroit; another on Aug. 1 in Grand Rapids; and a third on Aug. 4 in Saginaw. The diverse pool of participants — whose ages ranged from 15 to 76 and even included a friendly pet rat in a carrying case — gathered from across the state from as far as the Upper Peninsula. They made stops in communities along the way to “listen to Michigan citizens express their concerns about the state of our state.”

The groups converged in Lansing and then marched to the Capitol for a peace rally and press conference Tuesday.

“The underlying key to success is to change our culture,” Mills read from the introduction of the group’s petition, which has gathered over 1,350 signatures so far of people in support of creating a Michigan Commission for Peace and Justice.

Some of the issues this commission would address include the high rates of crime and poverty in Michigan and trying to remedy these problems through various outreach programs, as well as reallocating funds that are used for the prison system.

Mills said that she has seen a “connection between money spent on war and prisons and the money not spent on help with human needs.”

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, also spoke at the rally, agreeing with the sentiments expressed by Mills and Szawala. “We’re bankrupting our nation fighting our fellow men and women across the world,” he declared before collecting the petition.