Sixty students gathered in Gladfelter Hall last Friday for history professor Ralph Young’s second teach-in of the semester. Five students who participated in protests during the Republican National Convention in New York City led the discussion “Temple Students Report from the RNC.”
Participating students included senior Evan Hoffman, juniors Kristen Asher and Leah Hillsey, and sophomores Julia Foley and Allison Huxta. The students shared their perspectives of the events and circumstances of the protests.
“People came from all walks of life,” sad Hoffman as he showed a videotape of one of the protests. Footage of the protestors’ creative signs and posters sparked emotion in the audience.
Sayings ranged from satirical “Send your daughters to Iraq and bring our sons home,” to retrospective “How do you ask a soldier to be the last person to die for a lie?” It is estimated that half a million people protested in the streets of New York during the convention, although the New York Police Department no longer gives estimates on protest numbers.
Broadcasting professor Susan Jacobson was assigned to cover the convention for an Internet radio station. Her pictures and accounts were a stunning reminder that people of all ages were arrested, from college students to senior citizens, even though the protests were peaceful. A female Temple student told her story of being detained for 48 hours and arrested. She, too, was engaged in peaceful protest.
“One of the most important parts of dissent is to get a message out there,” explained Asher, who marched from the Bronx into Manhattan. She said she loved the experience of protesting with people with different beliefs than her own because it taught her to keep an open mind and listen to several points of view.
Huxta teamed up with Jobs With Justice, a workers’ rights group, to march in midtown Manhattan.
“It wasn’t a radical movement,” Foley said. “It was a very diverse group. There were even a lot of conservatives against Bush.”
Hillsey, who has participated in several protests, had a different experience than the rest of the panel. While she supports the idea of protesting, she did not agree with the way it was portrayed on television. Major networks showed live coverage of chanting protestors holding signs and posters with various messages, ranging from anti-war sentiment to advocacy of a specific group or organization, which could have been construed by viewers as chaotic and disorganized.
The discussion led to other political topics such as the failure of government officials to accurately reflect the beliefs and positions of their parties as well as frustration with the two party system. One student suggested more people vote for third party candidates at county and state elections in order to establish a presence because the majority will not support a lone presidential candidate.
The upcoming election was another area of debate. Student Terrence Harris believes that this election, like all elections, will be based on emotion. “Bush pulls on peoples’ heartstrings” by using national security as a platform and reiterating his faith in Jesus Christ.
Harris noted that Bush cited Jesus as his favorite philosopher during the 2000 presidential debates. “Who is going to dispute that?” he asked.
The teach-ins are designed to encourage students to gain broader perspectives on various controversial issues within society. At next week’s teach-in, history major Naoko Koda will discuss Okinawa, a Japanese prefecture, which has had a large American military presence since the second World War.
Stephanie Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.