Amid tight security, students were given an opportunity to express their thoughts on current world events Wednesday night at the Peace, Unity and Awareness Rally in the Special Events Center.
Students were given a two-minute time limit, and many waited in line on the side of the stage to voice their opinions about the actions that have occurred since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
The focus of the event was to raise awareness of different perspectives students may have about the domestic and foreign affairs, said Braulio Colon, communication director for the sponsor of the event, The Coalition for Progressive Student Organizations.
“The open forum gives students an opportunity on campus to come to this event and share their views,” Colon said. “And not necessarily what the media has to say and not necessarily what the government has to say, but an awareness of what people have to say in general.”
The majority of the views expressed by the students revolved around the United States’ military action against Afghanistan.Freshman Brendan James received applause when he said he was not convinced there was sufficient evidence proving that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“These attacks do not fit into bin Laden’s pattern,” James said.
While other students, such as graduate student Jack Crepeau, said U.S. foreign policy may have attributed to the terrorist attacks.
“The reason we are a target is because we are the new empirical power that exists in the Middle East,” Crepeau said. But despite the majority opinion of the 110-ticket-holding audience members, Colon said it would be a mistake to label this event as an anti-war rally.
“That’s a misconception about this event,” Colon said. “This is not about going against the government, but allowing students to come and speak.”
Colon said the reason for the strong security presence was because this misconception was there and we have “to protect ourselves from the misconception.”
The event had been postponed from Oct. 11 due to security concerns, said Sgt. Mike Klingebiel, spokesman for the University Police.
Klingebiel said after an article appeared in the Tampa Tribune referring to the first Peace, Unity and Awareness Rally as an anti-war rally, the university began to receive phone calls.
“Thirty-six hours out from the last scheduled event when there was a report there would be an anti-war rally on campus, it began to ignite controversy from the surrounding community,” Klingebiel said.
With the postponement, the UP has had two weeks to prepare for the event, Klingebiel said.
The security measures in place included each person entering the building being scanned with handheld metal detectors by the Phyllis P. Marshall Center security team. Students were also given tickets once they entered the building and were not allowed to re-enter the SEC if they left the rally.
Klingebiel said there were no security problems during the event.
“No situations occurred,” he said. “Everything went according to plan.”