About 150 to 200 students gathered in Storke Plaza yesterday at noon for a protest demanding the impeachment of President George W. Bush.
Rally speakers alleged that the president has overstepped his powers in authorizing – without court-issued warrants – the wiretapping of some U.S. citizens’ phones. Organized by the recently founded group Students for Impeachment, the protest opened with a funk rock band, featured several speeches including a few by professors and offered attendees a petition demanding an impeachment trial.
About 15 members of UCSB College Republicans attended the event to counter-protest.
Along with the petition, rally organizers photographed various attendees in front of a poster that read, “Get a Warrant Mr. President: Warrantless Wiretaps Are Unconstitutional.” The group intends to send the photographs to Congresswoman Lois Capps and Senator Dianne Feinstein, as well as President Bush.
Some protestors held signs such as “We Love America, Let’s Keep Her Free” and “We Must Impeach Bush Now.”
Counter-protesters held a cardboard cutout of George Bush and waved signs that read, “Thorn Is a Partisan Hack” – referring to Students for Impeachment organizer Jake Thorn – “Hillary Clinton Is a Man,” and “Give Cheney a Shot.”
Thorn, a fourth-year political science major, said Students for Impeachment claims Bush’s order permitting warrantless surveillance of telephone calls and emails violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which authorizes the government to collect foreign intelligence information through surveillance, but also includes limitations of that power.
Thorn said members of his organization saw the wiretaps as an attack on the Constitution, and felt the need to take action.
“Wiretapping is a very blatant attack on our civil liberties,” Thorn said. “Our options are to do something about it or to do nothing, but we feel it’s our duty as American citizens to do something.”
History professor Alice O’Connor said the calls for impeachment are calls for loyalty to the Constitution.
“This is a constitutional crisis using national security as a cover,” O’Connor said, “In the face of serious crimes, it’s the responsibility of citizens to follow up on the charges with serious investigation.”
However, College Republicans member and senior business economics major Antony Mascovich said the president, as Commander in Chief, has the authority to protect American citizens by practicing his right to use wiretaps.
“We are here to show people that this is nothing new and it is not unconstitutional,” Mascovich said. “Wiretapping has been handed down from the forefathers. I don’t know what the big fuss is to impeach Bush.”
Fourth-year business economics major Charles Stoicu said the government uses wiretapping to protect the welfare of society. Stoicu said he is not a member of College Republicans.
“You only have to fear what’s going to happen if you’re hiding things,” Stoicu said. “Look at Adam and Eve. They hid from God in the Garden of Eden because they knew they were doing something wrong.”
In response, Thorn said that citizens need to take a stand against Bush’s actions to avoid setting a bad precedent for future generations.
“Regardless of whom the next president may be, President Bush broke the law,” Thorn said. “We cannot silently consent to such transgressions. It would send a terrible message to him and future leaders. It’s not wise to invest as much trust in the president as College Republicans think we should have.”