Protesting the inauguration of President George W. Bush, a crowd of between 300 and 400 students marched from the Arbor to Storke Plaza on Thursday, chanting “Not My President” and “No Blood for Oil.”
Several students, faculty and staff members spoke in Storke Plaza about the effect of the Bush administration on the cost of college, abortion, gay marriage, the war in Iraq and workers’ rights. Marchers carried signs proclaiming “Dissent is Patriotic,” and wore T-shirts with anti-Bush mottos. Organizers also invited students to attend workshops about social change and American politics. About 25 College Republicans held a counter-demonstration at the rally.
Students organizers encouraged students to walk out of class Thursday afternoon to show their disapproval of Bush’s policies and re-election. In March 2003, a similar “Books Not Bombs” rally drew upward of 1,000 students to Storke Plaza to protest a possible war with Iraq.
“Just because [the presidential election] is over doesn’t mean we have to succumb and not question what is going on in our country,” said Marissa Brown, Campus Democrats president and a fourth-year political science and philosophy major.
About eight anti-Bush protesters spoke at the rally, including Associated Students Student Lobby Vice-chair Kelly Burns, A.S. Environmental Affairs Board member Sarah Minczeski and A.S. Legislative Council On-Campus Rep. Raymond Meza.
Burns said the financial priorities of the Bush administration are incompatible with what many Americans need.
“We could fund healthcare,” Burns said. “We could fund Outreach… and yet we fund war.”
Minczeski said she was concerned that Bush lobbied Congress to allocate $2 million in research funds toward developing cleaner uses of coal.
“We are currently under an administration that provides incentives for the destruction of our environment,” she said.
Meza, who is openly gay, said the Bush administration’s policies threaten gay rights, especially by the proposed Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Meza also said the president scapegoats homosexuals as the cause of the nation’s important problems.
“Do I pose a greater threat to the nation than tax cuts [or war]?” he said.
Courtney Schroeder, another speaker and a fourth-year business economics and political science major, said students should become more politically active.
“I’m organizing for what I feel is right,” Schroeder said. “I’m organizing for those who can’t. I’m organizing because, if I don’t, who will?”
About 20 members of the College Republicans followed the crowd from the Arbor chanting “Losers walk” and holding such signs as “Republicans Love Democracy” and “Dubya is for Winner.”
During the rally at Storke Plaza, an anti-Bush female demonstrator in the crowd tore one of the College Republicans’ posters, and was cited for vandalism by police. Another protester against the president knocked a digital camera out of the hands a College Republican, causing it to break. Three other Bush detractors grabbed a large “Vote for George W. Bush” poster from members’ hands and vandalized it with spray paint.
College Republicans President Antony Mascovich, a third-year business economics and history major, said he filed a complaint with a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. against the student who tore the sign. He said the other students have yet to be identified, but he will press charges if they are found.
Patrick Callahan, a second-year political science major and member of College Republicans, said the destruction of property was inconsistent with a supposedly peaceful protest.
“We think this shows the level of immaturity the protesters have,” Callahan said.
Mascovich said College Republicans attended the rally in response to what he called an “exhibit of tomfoolery.”
“Typically, we support people’s right to protest,” he said. “But I don’t know what they think they’re going to accomplish by protesting the democratic election of a president.”
Katie Joaquin, a fourth-year global studies major and one of the protest’s organizers, addressed the crowd after the posters had been vandalized and said such actions were inappropriate.
Demonstrations against the Bush administration were not limited to the UCSB. About 20 UCSB students traveled to Washington, D.C. on Thursday to join protests there. One of those students, second-year business economics and law and society major Bill Shiebler, phoned back to UCSB during the rally and spoke to the crowd through a cell phone held up to a microphone. He said he and others in his group broke through a police line near the inauguration parade route and were sprayed with mace. Only one member of the UCSB group received a direct spray to the face, he said.
“We’re not just going to let this president get inaugurated without [us] being there to show opposition,” Shiebler later said in an interview Thursday night. “Because [without opposition] it creates a message that it was okay that he was elected through a corrupt electoral system.”
KCSB radio station adviser Elizabeth Robinson said it is important to focus on the global context of the nation’s political actions.
“The war in Iraq, the war in Iran, the war in Afghanistan — have you forgotten about the war in Haiti?” Robinson said. “This is about the way we live in our world.”
Professor Ralph Ambruster-Sandoval of the Chicano Studies Dept. said the president has supported legislation against labor unions and the security of American jobs. He said two pieces of legislation include funding cuts to Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Dept. of Labor.
At the end of the rally, members of the crowd signed large pieces of poster paper with messages such as “Republicans Hate Science,” “The Only Bush I Trust is My Own” and “How Can a Religious Man Kill so Many People?” Rally organizers hung the posters on the walls of Storke Plaza.
One of the rally organizers, fourth-year communication and sociology major Ashley Chapman said the posters would probably be placed in the MultiCultural Center.