Students spread message, stop traffic

A mass of students paraded through and around campus, protesting the Iraq war and calling for troop withdrawal.

Justin Horwath

On the Iraq war’s fourth anniversary Tuesday, protesters marched across University grounds and through Coffman Union with a message to bring troops home as part of a national day of student protest.

Taking turns on the bullhorn, opponents of the war rallied the crowd with political messages and chants before departing on a march through campus and Dinkytown.

Speaking passionately to the crowd in front of Coffman Union, director of the Muslim Peacemaker Team Sami Rasouli said he wants U.S. troops to pull out of the country immediately.

Rasouli said the needs of the Iraqi people aren’t being met by the United States, leading to a lawless and borderless country.

“The Iraqi people have been betrayed,” he said.

The march was scheduled to end at the Dinkydome on 15th Avenue and University Avenue Southeast, but continued onto public streets, blocking traffic in several areas.

Police closed off streets, including the busy intersection of 15th and University Avenue.

The Anti-War Organizing League, which coordinated the protest, obtained a permit to demonstrate on public sidewalks but not on public streets.

AWOL global studies senior Erika Zurawski said they didn’t originally plan on marching past the Dinkydome, but demonstrators persuaded her to do so.

“We’re crowd-pleasers,” she said.

University police Lt. Chuck Miner said he planned on the protesters taking to the streets but didn’t intend on making any arrests.

“They’re well-behaved,” he said. “It’s quieter than last year.”

Last April, police arrested six students after they threw red paint on the Washington Avenue Army recruiting office during a demonstration.

The protesters continued west on 4th Street, finally marching east down University Avenue Southeast and back to the mall area via Church Street.

Police escorts followed the protesters closely throughout the one-and-a-half hour demonstration.

Economics sophomore John Kruger stood in the middle of the sidewalk near Fraser Hall while a sea of protesters passed around him.

Several demonstrators argued with Kruger to move because he was blocking pedestrian traffic, but Kruger stood his ground.

“I just felt like standing,” he later said about the incident.

Kruger said he represents the politically moderate and feels like both sides of the Iraqi discussion are not fully considering the situation.

“Each side is looking at each other like the enemy,” he said.

Kruger spent a year as a soldier in Iraq and said the issue is extremely politically polarized.

“It’s an all-or-nothing mentality,” he said.

Political science junior and College Republicans President Bethany Dorobiala said contacting a congressperson would be more effective than protesting.

“It’s easy to grab a sign and start yelling in front of people,” she said.

Protesters ended the demonstration by walking through Coffman Union, which was also spontaneous, Zurawski said.

Theater and cinema studies junior Carl Thomsen was studying in a downstairs lounge when the protesters entered the building.

Thomsen said he supported the use of free speech, but wasn’t sure Coffman Union was the right venue.

“This is a study area,” he said.

The demonstration ended without any arrests at the River Flats Park behind Coffman Union.