Concert promotes political involvement

by Courtney Blanchard

Bass lines and cymbal crashes echoed off the columns of Northrop Auditorium Friday night during Amps Against Apathy, a political action and music event held by Democracy Matters.

The event attracted bands and people with a range of political interests, from a dancing buffalo mascot for the Independence Party to kids who just wanted to rock out.

Joe Mullenbach, campus coordinator of Democracy Matters, said the event allowed student political groups to voice their issues, with three bands and a deejay in the backdrop.

“It’s a political year with the elections coming up,” the mechanical engineering sophomore said. “We want students to realize there are people working for the issues.”

The only issue for Democracy Matters, he said, is to strengthen democracy.

The nonpartisan group wants to pass the statewide Fair and Clean Elections Bill, Mullenbach said. The bill would provide Minnesota candidates with the option of funding their campaigns almost entirely with public money while restricting private contributions.

“We want to take the corrupting influence of money out of politics,” he said.

Advertising sophomore Alicia Houselog designs the fliers and T-shirts for Democracy Matters. She said the “corrupt culture” in Washington often turns young voters away from politics.

She said Amps Against Apathy is about trying to get students involved.

“A lot of (students) aren’t aware of the issues,” Houselog said.

Junior Chris LaPlante showed off his dance major moves during a deejay set between bands.

LaPlante, who also manned the University Pro-Choice Coalition booth, said he became involved in the political scene after he realized how little the government invests in arts.

“This could affect me in my future dancing career,” he said.

Educational psychology doctoral candidate Jessica Shryack came to the event with her fiancé and two children she used to baby-sit. They watched the action from the Northrop Auditorium stairs.

Shryack came to announce an Amnesty International food packing event for Darfur, Sudan.

She said she was impressed by the event.

“We need to access students through their own media,” Shryack said.

Not everyone was there for the politics. Douglas Lanz, singer for the band Spirit of ’76, said he had no idea the band was playing for a political event.

“I got here and kind of laughed,” Lanz said. “We’ve never been a band with a political statement.”

Biochemistry first-year Alex Florea showed up to check out the bands.

Florea said he didn’t come for the politics because, as a noncitizen, he can’t vote.

The native of Moldavia said that didn’t bother him, though. After six years in the country, he still finds ways to become involved, and was a member of Amnesty International in high school.

Of the eight student groups at the event, moderate, liberal and nonpartisan viewpoints were showcased. Lacking from the group, however, was a conservative voice.

Mullenbach said Democracy Matters extended the invitation to every political group on campus. Those groups not in attendance declined the invitation, he said.

Even without full political diversity at the event, Mullenbach said that the best road to a strong democracy is to get rid of partisan politics.

“It makes a person sick to hear all of the things coming out of Washington,” he said.