Activists see decline in protesters


Organizer Ed Vasquez leads an anti-war protest from Woodburn Hall to the Sample Gates on Wedesday near Ballantine Hall. Protesters, many who were from the Indiana Students Against War, marked the six-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. James Brosher Buy Photos

“We must pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan now,” Vazquez said. “What’s going on in Iraq is illegal. The longer we stay, the more instability they will have.”

At Wednesday’s demonstration, members of ISAW met beneath the red clock between Ballantine Hall and Woodburn Hall and marched to the Sample Gates.

But, to organizers’ dismay,  this year’s protest didn’t draw the crowds it has in previous years. About 10 students turned out, a smattering of those who participated last year, said junior Walker Rhea.

There were a number of reasons why fewer people showed up for the demonstration, he said. The Bloomington Peace Action Coalition, another anti-war group, had a separate protest last week and is putting on a benefit concert tonight. Members from this group comprised a majority of the protestors participating in the march in past years, Rhea said.

Another reason the march gathered less support was the election of President Barack Obama, he said.

“When Obama won he said he would change the foreign policy,” he said.

“Students think that they have done enough by showing support for Obama to not participate in activism.”

Graduate student Sandrine Catris said she was afraid students might not have heard about the event.

“We didn’t advertise as much for the protest as we did for the teachings,” she said.

Rhea, Catris and other members of ISAW held signs demonstrating their views about the war. The signs said, “End the U.S. occupation of Iraq,” “Out of Iraq now” and “War is Terrorism.”

Rhea said he would not normally phrase his views in the statement “War is Terrorism.” He said the distinction between what is considered “terrorism” is based on political perspectives.

“People cannot fight terrorism by becoming a terrorist,” Catris said.

Though he is not a part of ISAW, junior Robert Neal came to participate in the protest. He said the idea of killing anyone for any reason does not make sense to him.

“It’s 2009,” he said. “It’s time to evolve our ideas on peace.”

Neal said instead of fighting for freedom, he believes in democratic debate.

“Open debate, compromise, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “People shouldn’t be arrogant. They should just listen. But it’s human tendency to want to fight.”

A few students passing the demonstration yelled at the protestors. While Vasquez voiced his opinions through the megaphone, Neal said, he was not yelling about how other people’s opinions are wrong the way some students did.

One student approached the group, said he was in the military, and debated with members of ISAW before they began the march. Neal said he did not agree with most of the student’s argument.

“He said basketball is basketball and war is war,” Neal said. “That doesn’t make any sense. War isn’t a sport.”

Rhea said the underlying issue he is concerned with is not how troops are being treated.

“War is illegal,” he said. “Gaining land through war is illegal. Occupation is what I’m protesting.”

During the march from the clock to the gates, Vasquez continued to yell through the megaphone.

“We must take to the streets now to protest this,” he said. “We cannot lead normal lives as long as Iraqis live in misery.”

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