Students walk out to protest Iraq war

Elizabeth Giorgi

Helicopters, police officers, final exams and professors couldn’t prevent motivated students from closing parts of Washington Avenue and Morrill Hall on Wednesday during an anti-war protest.

Police estimated 800 to 1,000 students from the University and area high schools protested the war in Iraq in front of Coffman Union.

Speakers and students emphasized that they were in attendance to protest the war in Iraq, the Bush administration and military recruiters in high schools, and to demand the soldiers be brought home.

Cultural anthropology sophomore Sarah Faltesek stood Wednesday morning on the bridge overlooking Washington Avenue prior to the event with a sign that said, “War leaves every child behind.”

Faltesek said she has a personal incentive to protest.

“My cousin is a medic (in Iraq) and I don’t want to wait for him to come home in a body bag,” she said.

Some protesters who had family members in Iraq didn’t share the same sentiments.

First-year financing student Geri Howg has a brother who will be returning to Iraq in December.

Howg said the attitude of the protests is not helpful and it causes the soldiers in Iraq to feel as if they are doing something wrong.

“(The protests) are more detrimental to the soldiers over there,” she said.

The students protesting in front of Coffman Union listened to speeches from organizers of the protest. Some high school students who played crucial roles in organizing the walkout also spoke.

Students held signs, chanted words of protest, hugged each other and sang songs.

St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts student Eric Mayson played guitar for people as they were walking by.

“The majority of youth don’t get their voices out as much as they should,” he said.

Mayson’s classmate Linsey Williams said some students from her school were not allowed to attend.

“A few people were not permitted to come and teachers would stop people at the door.”

South High School student Tristan Smith said his school also experienced some difficulties with letting students out of class.

It is the end of the quarter, he said, so half the teachers were allowing students to go and half weren’t.

Minneapolis resident and University alumnus Bruce Berry has attended events across the country to protest President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq.

“This movement is in some ways the heart of America,” he said. “It goes across all levels of people regardless of age, race, level of education and status.”

Several University staff members also participated in the protest.

Tracy Molm works in the civil engineering department at the University and volunteered to hold a banner on the stairs in front of Coffman Union.

Molm said the money spent on the war in Iraq could be used toward other things, such as education.

“We aren’t getting a fair deal,” she said.

After the speakers had finished, the group marched along Washington Avenue toward the military recruitment centers, causing police officers to temporarily stop traffic.

University police chief Greg Hestness said there were no major incidents during the protest.

“We prefer that the streets remain passable and that people aren’t obstructing traffic, but other than that it went quite well,” he said.

Two men, one a Minneapolis Community and Technical College student, received written warning of trespassing notices after University police responded to a call from Army Recruiting on Oak Street at approximately 4:30 p.m.

According to police, Army Recruiting employees said the men were touching their building and disrupting business.

During the protest, a group of students labeling themselves as “counterprotesters,” stood outside the doors of the recruitment center to build a barrier.

The group could hear the protesters chanting, “Who is the terrorist? Bush is the terrorist,” and soon they began to yell back.

Continuing education graduate student Will Marean stood outside the offices with a sign that said, “Get your ass back to class.”

Marean said that although he was opposed to the ideologies of the protest, he still appreciates the fact that Americans are able to protest.

“I love that we have freedom of speech,” he said.

Emily Kaiser contributed to this article.