Iraq debaters square off in Circle

Thursday, March 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:29 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

With a cardboard cutout of President George W. Bush sheltered under an umbrella, students and local activists trickled into Speaker’s Circle on Wednesday afternoon despite the rain to protest the president’s foreign policies and the war in Iraq. Counterprotesters showed their support for Bush and the war, and the two sides engaged in an open debate.

Protestors mark anniversary of Iraq invasion

“March 20 is the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq,” said Silas Allard, a student who spoke at the rally. “People thought there should be some sort of demonstration marking the anniversary to show there is continued opposition to the war and the other policies of the Bush administration. However, because March 20 falls on the Saturday of spring break, we thought it would be more effective to hold it a couple of days early.”

At 11:30 a.m., Students for Progressive Action began the rally, which they modeled after President Bush’s State of the Union Address. Students from different activist groups such as the Feminist Student Union and Amnesty International spoke on issues they felt reflected the real state of the union.

A few feet away, another group of students stood in counterprotest with signs supporting Bush and the war.

Charles Stinger, a member of the College Republicans, said the counterprotest was organized a few days ago.

Passerbys join counterprotest

Half a dozen students with signs and an American flag stood off to the side of Speaker’s Circle. The group was made up of members of College Republicans, Libertarians, a woman whose husband was a Vietnam veteran and other students who walked by and decided to join in the counterprotest.

“We just wanted to counteract what they were saying,” Stinger said. “We support the president, and we believe the war in Iraq was justified. We wanted to show our patriotism.”

During the rally, the Patriot Act was one of the issues the two sides debated.

“The United States is engaging in a massive policy of racial profiling on Muslim Americans and men of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent,” Allard said, “And of the 177,000 people who have been arrested, no convictions and no charges have been filed for terrorism-related offenses.”

Students disagree on Patriot Act

Students from the counter-protest disagreed with that interpretation of the act.

“People need to read the Patriot Act. They think it’s an infringement on their rights, but it protects them,” said Chip Walker, a Bush supporter.

At the protest’s end, protesters tore down the Bush cutout in the same fashion that statues of Saddam Hussein were torn down in Baghdad.

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