When George W. Bush made his way onto the USF campus this weekend, the things he spoke out for were not in practice mere feet from where he was talking.
To keep the protesters in check, the police created a “First Amendment Zone” in which people were allowed to protest. They were so far away from the actual line where people waited to get into the Sun Dome when I arrived, I didn’t even notice them.
What good is the constitutional right to protest when they are moved to a spot that most of the visitors do not even see? It is also quite questionable that a “First Amendment Zone” had to be created in the first place. The constitution should be in effect in the entire country, not in designated “zones.”
Of course, the security of the President of the United States had to be ensured, but the protesters were nowhere near him at any time in the first place and then were moved by police officers on horses. To onlookers, it looked more like a cattle roundup than a peaceful protest.
I was a designated photographer for The Oracle, and for a few minutes I was only about three feet away from the president. For most of the protesters this was a feat they could never have achieved because they were not even let into the building. Some of the people who were turned away wore clearly visible slogans or buttons on them that supported Bill McBride or criticized the Bush Administration, others did wear regular clothes. They were turned away based on the claim that the Sun Dome event was a private one. How can an event that involved the president flying to Florida on Air Force One, paid for by taxpayers, be considered private?
The major part of the event was the president’s speech. As citizens of the United States, you would think they would have had the right to enter the building and see their president speak, but since the Republican Party picked up the tab for the building itself, they were not allowed to attend. This in itself could have been understandable, but turning away people who had tickets based on the fact that they were protesters, who happened to be black, does not make it any better. It brings back memories of the previous presidential election in which black people were allegedly told they could not vote.
As the president was taking the stage and talking about “ending bigotry” and ensuring “equality,” people were left outside because they had allegedly been part of the protest. As the president was talking about it not being important who you vote for, and it was a civic duty to vote, people who will clearly vote, though not Republican, were also not admitted.
The thing that was most worrying was not the protests outside or the clearly unconstitutional door practices, it was Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf shouting out that the country under the leadership of President Bush is ready to “kick the hell out of the Iraqis” and thousands of people cheering in support. I simply cannot understand how people can unconditionally cheer for war.
People die in wars. There is no fun part to war. There is no reason to cheer for it.
And protesting against it is a constitutional right that should be protected.
Sebastian Meyer is a junior majoring in environmental science and firstname.lastname@example.org