GOP "Troops" Rally Brings Insults, Shouting
March 25, 2007 9:13 AM
Just days after they were absolved of possible sanctions, the SF State College Republicans called for support of U.S. soldiers in Iraq at Malcom X Plaza Thursday amid heckles and protests from the majority of the crowd.
The event began with BECA major and president of the College Republicans Leigh Wolf, 20, giving what he initially called a “non-political” speech about the need to support the troops stationed in Iraq.
“The media is twisting what’s happening [in the war],” said Wolf. “We need to support those who are fighting for a volunteer army.”
The event, was held before a roving crowd of about 100 students, police, and administration. It came on the heels of the decision by the Student Organization Hearing Panel on March 16, that unanimously ruled that there were no grounds to punish the club for allegedly breaking the student code of conduct when they stomped on homemade flags of Hezbollah and Hamas last October.
Both Hezbollah and Hamas are categorized as terrorist organizations by the United States. Both flags contained the Arabic symbol for "Allah" or God. Student complaints and an ASI resolution condemning the GOPs hinged on claims of religious intolerance of the GOPs at their "anti-terrorism" rally.
The Thursday stage, decorated with American flags and signs reading "support our troops", was juxtaposed by a demonstration by the Students Against War (SAW), where they set up 201 cardboard headstones in the quad, one of which was colored with stars and stripes, representing the 200-to-1 ratio of the estimated 655,000 Iraqi and 3,300 American deaths from the war.
Before the rally started, ASI presidential write-in candidate and SF State GOP Outreach John Ashford, 26, commented on the display.
“[The headstones] look like a Halloween graveyard, they’re not in straight lines, it looks like they were drunk when they were lining it up,” said Ashford, who later took stage during the rally to stress the importance for U.S. soldiers to fight with "strength and integrity."
In addition to SAW protestors, who stormed the plaza during the rally with signs saying “occupation is colonization,” other students had organized to counter the College Republicans.
“So many have died and we need to put a stop to it. We pay taxes to a government that is killing people,” said freshman Sam Anderson, 18, who is double majoring in Philosophy and international relations.
The event was heavily secured, as policemen were stationed on the top of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, surrounding the quad and sides of the stage.
According to Ellen Griffin, SF State Director of Public Affairs, officers were stationed based on police department discretion to maintain order, not the university’s.
Joey D. Greenwell, director of the Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development and Penny Saffold, vice president of student affairs tried to move the counterprotestors who were breaching OSPLD policy that states “counter demonstrations must not interfere with scheduled events."
Although Greenwell explained the policy to the protesting groups, he didn’t enforce it.
Both Greenwell and Saffold declined comment.
After about 20 minutes of speeches, the College Republicans took down the signs and flags and Wolf took stage again.
After noting that supporting the troops should not be politicized and clearly stating the "support our troops" signs were removed, Wolf warned the crowd, he was going to get political.
He goaded the crowd with a litany of grievances he had with the SF State social/political climate, the counter-protesters and the SF State administration.
“This is supposed to be a campus of free speech. That’s bullshit!” said Wolf. “You’ve spent six months trying to throw us [College Republicans] out, to make sure we don’t have a voice. Well, we are here to stay.”
He later attacked the counter demonstrators. “Do you guys even go to college? Or are you just high school students visiting?”
Toward the end of his speech, he called out members of SAW, Associated Students, and later condemning the administration, namely President Robert Corrigan, whom he said should be fired for abridging his free speech rights.
Navy Vietnam War veteran and junior park and recreation major Margie Talavera said Wolf had planned for things to get out of hand, eagerly telling people, “There’s gonna be trouble, there’s always trouble.”
“He thinks he knows about war—he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about!” said Talavera, 52.
One angered student approached Wolf at the steps of the stage in a fury.
“You’re talking but you’re not saying anything!” said Brittany McGregor, 21, senior theatre arts and humanities major. “If you are going to use the stage then make sure your statements are worthwhile! It’s all rhetoric! No solutions!”
“She’s not gonna be able to sleep tonight,” laughed Wolf in a response.
Some members of SAW asked Wolf to take the stage in a response, but Wolf answered “Do you let me take the stage at your rallies? No.”
Instead, the SAW group formed a shoulder-to-shoulder line, in a unified chant saying, “He’s racist, he’s sexist, and he’s really stupid! The war on terror is a lie, we ain’t got no alibi.”
USF senior political science major Jakub Glodek immediately grabbed an American flag and started waving it to combat the message of the protesters.
“I appreciate any organization that supports our troops,” said Glodek, 23.
College Republican Vice President Trent Dowres stayed out of the fight, frustrated by the event.
“It’s the same thing every time. It’s almost getting boring,” said Dowres. “Nobody listens to you no matter what you say.”
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