Demonstrators met cheers and jeers as they took to the streets of Brookings and the sidewalks of campus last Friday to protest the possibility of an American attack on Iraq.
While the protest averaged between 40 and 50 people for most of the two-hour event, organizers counted nearly 70 participants at its peak.
The climax of the protest was a “die-in” in front of the Rotunda when most of the demonstrators “dropped dead” on the ground to symbolize the casualties of war.
“I think the quiet of the die-in was a good way to end it,” Steve Burge, a sociology graduate student, said.
The march began on the south end of downtown and worked its way up to Sixth Street and over to Medary Avenue before moving to campus. The demonstrators then marched around campus with a UPD escort and held demonstrations in front of the Student Union, Administration Building and Larson Commons before making a dramatic finish in front of the Rotunda.
Demonstrators carried signs which read, “Drop Bush Not Bombs”, “No Attack on Iraq” and “Vote Regime Change.”
Chants from the demonstrators included “We don’t want your corporate war!” “The people united will never be divided!” and “Bush and Thune have got to go!”
Emily Hauge, one of the student organizers of the protest, said, “It’s an amazing crowd despite the weather and everything going on.”
She said that she had expected about 35 people to attend. Advertising for the event had largely been spread by word-of-mouth.
When the marchers walked around the residence halls and demonstrated in front of Larson Commons, some students shouted from their rooms, “We love Bush,” “Go home, you freaks,” and “You can’t accomplish anything in Brookings, S.D.” Others said, “Saddam needs to die,” “Bomb Iraq,” and “Iraq needs to die.”
Some students drove past the marchers a few times with a pro-war banner on the car.
One passerby said, “Go ahead and make fun of yourselves that way.”
Other observers were more supportive.
Lisa Linke, a graduate wildlife student, said, “If they don’t stop Iraq now, who knows what would happen in the future? I’m happy to see them protest to promote their views.”
“I think it’s good because I agree with them. I don’t believe in war. I’m happy to see students get involved,” Destiny Anderson, a music merchandising major, said.
Joe Kenton, a political science major, said, “People like this are great patriots.”
Philosophy professor Dennis Bielfeldt said the possibility of a war with Iraq deserves attention.
“It’s good to see students fired up,” Cindi Penor Ceglian, professor of human development/family studies, said.
Agribusiness student Robert Davis said, “It’s good to see students care more about society than themselves.”
For some students, observing the protests was a new experience.
“I’ve never seen a student protest at SDSU before. Love and peace is all we need,” sophomore Jake Melson said.
The protest was also the first Shumon Ahmd, a native of Nepal majoring in biology, had seen.
“I appreciate people expressing their feelings,” he said.
Protest organizer Patrick Lopez of Brookings said, “I’m very glad we got our word out.”
While the aim of the march was nonpartisan, several of the marchers carried signs supporting Sen. Tim Johnson. However, Johnson voted for the resolution authorizing President Bush to use force against Iraq.
One protester said, if Johnson wins, they’ll “make him squirm” for his vote to support Bush against Iraq.
While most of the marchers were SDSU students, some were from Brookings and other parts of eastern South Dakota. Participants included clergy, professors and peace activists,
The possibility of a war with Iraq has some worried.
“Corporate war is not good for little kids or anyone else, for that matter,” Christine L’Amour, history and Spanish major, said.
English and linguistics professor John Taylor said he was especially concerned after hearing of the deployment of the USS Constellation aircraft carrier battle group to the Middle East.
“The recent development of weaponry for urban deployment is unnerving. It’s not a secret. It’s a threat,” Taylor said.
Taylor said it was ironic that a recorded promotional message he received from Barbara Bush said it “boils her blood when politicians threaten people.”
Jeanne Koster of the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center, said she was upset that Congress gave President Bush a “blank check” to use force against Iraq.
“We need everyone’s voice to stop it,” she said.
“None of the public goals of the Bush administration regarding Iraq require a war. The U.S. has put Saddam in power and has kept him in power,” she said.
#1.887815:224216445.jpg:war.jpg:Students Kristi Evans, Tyler Mahowald and Heidi Valer protested the possibility of an American attack on Iraq last week outside the University Student Union. Protesters marched and demonstrated at various points on campus and met with shouts of support as well as criticism. :