As President Bush celebrated the beginning of his second term in Washington Thursday night, some Columbia residents gathered to represent the community that opposes his presidency.
Organized by the Columbia Peace Coalition, dozens gathered at Missouri United Methodist Church for the “People’s Inaugural Ball,” which included live music, speakers and a positive mood that contrasted their distaste for the Bush administration.
“Frederick Douglass said, ‘Agitate, agitate and agitate some more,’” said city councilwoman Almeta Crayton, who discussed the economic and social effects of four more years under the Bush White House. “We’re watching services crumble; people’s lives are crumbling around us — to have this war you have to take money from somewhere.”
Crayton told a responsive crowd of community members, children and university students that the true weapons of mass destruction are “the problems we’re having now.”
“People are getting impatient,” said Keith Brekhus, public information coordinator for Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, of Bush’s handling of the Iraq war. Comparing Iraq protests to those for the Vietnam War, Brekhus hopes continued protest from an organized opposition will change Bush’s foreign policy.
“With the Republican overflow and the Christian right, you get the feeling that you are in the minority,” said Rob Goodson, a 22-year-old senior at Westminster College in Fulton who attended with several fellow students. “We’re disempowered. I get the feeling all the time that we’re not getting anything done, but we just have to stay at it.”
Though the focus of the event was to discuss the ill effects of the Iraq war, others found the gathering to be a helpful way of demonstrating community support and getting their own message out. Such was the case for MU Spanish professor Michael Ugarte, a member of a group known as the UMC Concerned Faculty, Staff and Students for Democracy and Public Knowledge.
“Our main criticism is how media is beholden to corporate interests,” said Ugarte, adding that the group hosts discussion forums and publishes a monthly column that allows progressively minded faculty to disseminate information on issues that have ranged from gay rights to African issues.
But the main point of the evening was that those opposed to the Bush administration should not give up.
“It’s people like you in a room like this in Columbia, Mo., who share this vision,” said Laura Schopp, a speaker who was introduced as an activist.