War supporters meet counter-protesters at pro-war rally

by Patricia Drey

Approximately 250 people attended a pro-war rally on the steps of Coffman Union on Friday.

Attendees with signs and American flags prayed, sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and listened to speeches peppered with emotion about supporting the troops.

“Over 70 percent of Americans support us, and these ignorant college students who protest weekly claim that the American government isn’t listening to them,” said Chris Hill, executive director of Minnesota Young Americans for Freedom. “We say to those who oppose this war: Go to France.”

Many speakers directed their remarks at approximately 50 counter-protesters assembled nearby, holding signs such as “Democracy is not delivered by bombs” and “Give me freedom from upper-class Republicans.”

Although counter-protester Ben Holtzman, a geophysics graduate student, said he doubted he would make a difference, he showed up with a banner that said “Our dictator is #1.”

“These people only watch Fox News,” Holtzman said. “They have no idea about the violence and hatred that will be inflicted on Americans around the world.”

Pro-war supporters also asserted that those against the war were ignorant about the situation. Speaker Yacoub al Jaffery, an Iraqi, said counter-protesters were supporting Saddam Hussein and terrorism. The Iraqi government uses images of antiwar protesters on state-run television to present an unfavorable image of the United States, he said.

“I think you guys have to go home and relax,” al Jaffery said, looking at counter-protesters.

Jon Smajda, a sociology graduate student and counter-protester, said protests are the only thing that will make a difference in stopping the war.

Other students said by attending the rally they hoped to help show troops their support.

“We have to support our forces who are out fighting for a cause which is right,” said agriculture education sophomore Suzie Rethemeier. “Someone has to fight for rights of those who can’t.”

Another student, global studies senior Connie Nompelis, said she did not want to see troops shunned when they returned home. She said her father is a Vietnam veteran, and she does not want current troops to experience what he went through after the battle was over.

Antiwar sentiment among professors also received some attention in the speeches.

“It’s great you can march in full view of all your misguided professors who have no idea that the 1960s are over,” said Chris Tiedeman, from the Center of the American Experiment. “Today the silent majority is breaking their silence.”

Despite the wind and cold weather, the rally lasted a little longer than an hour.

“The troops are out in the hot desert in blinding sandstorms,” said biochemistry junior Jeff Dahl. “The least I can do is come out here on a cold Friday and show my support.”

College Republicans, Campus Republicans, Young Americans for Freedom and Friends of Israel helped to organize and promote the rally.

Patricia Drey welcomes comments at [email protected]