Peaceful protesters dwarfed by supporters

Protesters gathered on University Avenue to voice their criticisms of both Mark Dayton and President Obama Saturday.

Anti-war protesters, John Mason, right, and Henrie, who refused to give his last name, protest at the Obama rally along University Ave SE.

Image by Jason Kopp

Anti-war protesters, John Mason, right, and Henrie, who refused to give his last name, protest at the Obama rally along University Ave SE.

by Kyle Potter

University Avenue acted as an ideological divide when President Barack Obama came to the University of Minnesota on Saturday.

In the hours leading up to the rally, protesters lined the sidewalks, watching as supporters filed into the University Field House across the street.

Separated by a stretch of concrete, two groups of protesters broadcast their messages critical of the president without disturbing the peace until they left their posts around 2 p.m.

Students from the University student group College Republicans congregated at 12:30 p.m., holding signs and wearing T-shirts to voice their support for Republican candidate Tom Emmer and to criticize Obama.

The 20 or so students conversed quietly among themselves and rarely fired back at hecklers passing by.

“WeâÄôre not trying to be here to be rude, disrespectful or rambunctious,” sophomore Jackie Caston said. “We just want to show that we donâÄôt agree with the policies.”

The quiet protest was just one of a litany of events Minnesota College RepublicanâÄôs Executive Director Jake Loesch has set up and attended in the past months. HeâÄôs been traveling to the other 16 chapters on college campuses throughout Minnesota as the election nears.

“Mark Dayton has got the wrong message for Minnesota,” Loesch said. “We need some fiscal conservatism, and thatâÄôs just not what we see.”

Surrounded by college-age students, the middle-aged and jolly Jim Engebretson anchored the group as he waved a “DonâÄôt tread on me” flag.

“I doubt if weâÄôre going to change opinions of people going into the Field House, but there are a lot of people driving by,” he said.

Just steps away, a smaller group of protesters from the Anti-War Committee used handmade banners and a megaphone to get the attention of those waiting in line.

“WeâÄôre here to say âÄòYou said you supported change,âÄô” Meredith Aby said.

Aby was one of six Minneapolis anti-war activists whose homes were raided by the FBI on Sept. 24.

“I am still kind of shocked and outraged that I personally was attacked for my activism,” she said.

The group chanted over the megaphone âÄî “End the war, weâÄôve had enough, FBI give back our stuff,” among other things âÄî and handed out leaflets to call for an end to the war in Afghanistan and for the president to halt the investigation of the six AWC members.

University police Chief Greg Hestness said that in his preparations for the rally, he expected the number of supporters to dwarf protesters.

“ThatâÄôs pretty much what happened,” he said, noting the rally concluded without any notable security incidents.