Ralliers gather, march down University Avenue

Patricia Drey

Students captured the attention of onlookers and police officers at the University on Monday in demonstrations supporting and denouncing the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The largest group – as many as 1,000 people – met on Northrop Plaza at noon to speak out against the war. Many of them left class as part of the walkout Students Against War and other campus groups organized.

At 3:30 p.m., more than 150 students marched down University Avenue to Republican Sen. Norm Coleman’s office, blocking eastbound University Avenue traffic.

Multicultural education first-year student Emily MacDonald said walking out of her geology class early was worth it.

“My education is important, but I thought one day to show my support against the war was worth my time,” she said.

First-year student Madeline Gardner agreed.

“It’s more important than my Spanish class to come out and say I’m not okay with the direction our country is going,” she said.

Ty Moore, protest organizer and Socialist Alternative member, thanked students for coming to the plaza to protest the war.

“This did not only happen in the Twin Cities; it happened across the country and all over the world,” he said.

Students for Justice in Palestine member Erika Zurawski said, “I look out here and I see all of America represented here today. …. Mr. Bush, this is America!”

Counter protests

Though most students protesting Monday spoke against the war, approximately 40 waved U.S. flags and held “Liberate Iraq” signs.

At one point, approximately one dozen pro- and antiwar protesters argued with each other on Northrop Plaza.

“I came to show people that there’s not a unity of antiwar sentiment on campus,” said Brian Feldt, a mechanical engineering junior and Gulf War veteran.

National Guard member and first-year chemistry student Garth Saul was involved in the debate between pro- and antiwar protesters.

“I don’t know that I personally will have a lot of impact, but I wanted to come out and support those who support me – our troops,” he said.

Saul joined Yacoub al Jaffery, an Iraqi dissident, to chant, “Saddam and Hitler are the same; the only difference is the name” to counter the antiwar demonstrators’ chant: “Impeach Bush! Don’t attack Iraq!”

Law School administrative aide Ken Bechtel initiated a discussion by asking the counter-protesters why they didn’t enlist.

“If it’s a cause you believe in, you’d do what you can to do to get over there,” he said.

Several members of Young Americans for Freedom, College Republicans and Campus Republicans moved from their original spot on Northrop Mall into the crowd of antiwar protesters with signs such as, “How many soldiers died for your free speech?”

Profanity was the most violent weapon used during the confrontation, and antiwar protest organizers said they appreciated the intense discourse.

“While there was a lot of tension, it did foster communication,” Students Against War organizer Ryan Helgerson said.

University reaction

University Police Lt. Chuck Miner said the 18 officers at the plaza – including one with binoculars on the Walter Library roof – did not encounter problems.

“They’ve all been pretty cooperative,” Miner said, adding that the antiwar groups had a permit to protest.

Onlookers stood on the edges of the plaza, keeping opinions to themselves while watching the action.

“It’s good to see that people are standing up for other countries besides just the United States of America,” management junior Rupesh Patel said.

Genetics junior Andrew Kale said he does not know if he supports the war.

“I just came to watch,” he said.

But biology sophomore Derek Johnson said he was walking by and decided to join the counter-protesters to show “not everybody’s against the war.”

Blank stares greeted the approximately 200 students who chanted “What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!” as they rode the escalator down to Coffman Union’s Great Hall after the plaza protest.

At least 14 Minneapolis police squad cars escorted the antiwar protesters who marched from Coffman to Coleman’s office after a teach-in and group discussions.

Police arrested 28 people at the senator’s offices, the first such arrests in the Twin Cities since the war began.

When the group reached Oak Street, computer science senior Sam Adriaens stood in front of Antiwar Committee member Carrie Thomas’ Blazer, preventing it from moving ahead with the protest.

“The best way to bring peace to the people of Iraq is to fight for it,” Adriaens said after protesters walked around him and the Blazer.

He moved after police told him to get out of the street.

At Coleman’s office, Macalester College students joined University students and other antiwar community groups.

Protesters backed traffic up from Coleman’s office – at the intersection of University Avenue and Eustis Street – to 25th Avenue Southeast because of police roadblocks set two blocks west of Coleman’s office.

Miner said in addition to the police presence, some precautions were taken on campus because of the protests.

University police and residence hall directors locked residence halls during the day.

“We want to be proactive rather than reactive,” Centennial Hall director Tam Knapton said, adding that she did not expect the protests to get out of hand.

Though antiwar organizers said fewer people showed up to protest Monday than attended another protest at Northrop Mall on Thursday, onlooker Hodan Yussuf said protesters made a difference.

“We have to start somewhere,” she said. “Things are not going to get done if you don’t do your part.”

Patricia Drey covers student life and

welcomes comments at [email protected]

Elizabeth Dunbar covers international affairs and welcomes comments at

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