Toolkit for Local Antiwar Resolutions

How the Chicago Peace Pledge got the Chicago City Council to Vote for Troop Withdrawal from Iraq Now

Peace Pledge Chicago has put together this packet of information to share with you our experiences in organizing a successful campaign that culminated in the Chicago City Council passing a resolution calling on U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq. We want to share this with you so that you too can develop such a campaign and get a similar resolution passed in your city or town. Please contact us with any questions, feedback, or comments. Thank you. Together we can help to end this war NOW!

Goals of the Campaign

  1. To reactivate and mobilize the Chicago anti-war movement.
  2. To demonstrate public opposition to the war.
  3. To mobilize ourselves (the Peace Pledge) to be out in the city and talking to people.
  4. To convince the City Council of Chicago, the third largest city in the U.S., to pass the resolution.

Steps Involved in the Campaign

Preliminary steps

  1. Meet and plan a campaign strategy.
  2. Contact other groups and individuals to formulate and work on
    the campaign with us.
  3. Develop a petition (petition in English). We also translated it into Spanish (petition in Spanish).
  4. Write the resolution.
  5. Preparation of other materials, which included a bright yellow t-shirt that said Troops Home Now on the front and Work for Peace and a peace symbol on the back, a leaflet for those who were not sure what they thought and a calling card, so that people could get back in touch with us.

The Petition Drive

We developed this campaign in late April/early May 2005 because we wanted to go out and talk to people during the summer. Once we developed the petition and talked to other groups, we came up with a list of outdoor summer activities that we could go to to ask people to sign the petition. Initially, some members of the group felt shy about going up to strangers and asking them to sign the petition. To overcome this, we frequently petitioned in twos. We could also have done practice petitioning with each other, but we didn't need to. Our experiences varied, in terms of a success rate. Although Chicago is a "blue" city and the City Council passed a resolution opposing the war before it started, a fair number of people would not sign the petition. Some people just outright supported the war. Others said things like, "well, we are there, we have to finish the job." We did most of the petitioning in June, July, and August, so it is likely that the growth in anti-war sentiment that has occurred since then might alter the number of people who refused to sign the petition. In any case, we estimate, very roughly, that about 1 out of every 3 or 4 people we asked to sign the petition did so. In any case, we were very glad to be out there talking to people. A number of people thanked us for being out there and some people said they would like to be active or, at least, be on our mailing list.

In addition to petitioning at festivals, some of us went door-to-door in our neighborhoods. Those who did this found it to be a good experience, since it gave them the chance to talk to their neighbors about the war. We had also hoped to go door to door more systematically in neighborhoods where we thought the alderman might not support the resolution. However, we did not do this. This would have given us the opportunity to talk to people in different neighborhoods and maintain more ongoing contact with them. We also developed a web page where people could sign the petition online.

Members of the group met with key aldermen who agreed to sponsor the resolution. Several were quite eager to sponsor such a resolution and a majority of the City Council signed on to the resolution. Hearings were held in City Council about the resolution. To maximize the value of the media exposure that the hearings generated, we lined up good speakers to testify as to why they opposed the war and thought the troops should be brought home NOW! It is very powerful to include as witnesses military families whose children are serving, did serve, or died in Iraq. We also held a rally the day before the vote. Several members of military families spoke at the rally, as did Joe Moore, the alderman who sponsored the resolution. To dramatically symbolize the unjustified death of so many Iraqis and U.S. troops we staged a die in. At a certain moment we announced the die in and roughly 40 people dropped to the ground and other people circled their body in chalk. As they lay there, we read the names and ages of Iraqis and U.S. troops that have been killed in Iraq. A picture of the die in was in the Chicago Tribune.

Results and Concluding Thoughts

The City Council of Chicago passed the resolution on September 14th, 2005 with a vote of 29 for and 7 against.

We estimate that during the petition drive we spoke to at least 20,000 people, and 6,500 people signed the petition. The combined work of the hearings, the rally, and the resolution all generated media coverage, although we would have liked to have seen more of it. The petition also includes a space where people could sign Yes if they wanted to be on our mailing list. Roughly 500 people checked that they did, thus increasing the number of people on our list and, hopefully, who will become active.

Follow Up

We sent thank you notes to all the aldermen who supported the resolution. We are circulating this "tool kit" nationally to share our experiences with other anti-war activists. We have added the new people to our mailing list and sent them out a note telling them the outcome of the petition drive and the work we are now involved in.