Students gather to protest ‘Sorry State of the Union’

Emily Wills ’04, the political action coordinator of the Yale Women’s Center, said she loved the sounds of gloved applause and dancing feet. Plenty of both were on display Wednesday night as students stood outside in the cold at High Street Gate, responding to last night’s State of the Union address.

The Yale Coalition for Peace gathered approximately 40 students together for an event called “The Sorry State of the Union.” Without a stage or a microphone, organizers encouraged students from both sides of the political spectrum to express their views on the Bush administration’s moves toward war with Iraq.

While the event was held as part of a national action called by the Campus Antiwar Network, the Yale organizers asked students to articulate their views on a variety of issues, including foreign policy concerns in Iraq and Israel, civil liberties, unions, the environment, and Bush’s economic policy.

Yale College Democrats President Alicia Washington ’05 criticized Bush’s address and called on Democrats and liberals to work for the election of a Democratic president in 2004.

“Bush failed to convince me of the imminent need to go to war,” Washington said.

Saqib Bhatti ’04 of the Muslim Students Association said he was concerned about the government’s violation of the civil rights of Muslims in the United States. Bhatti said he feared the U.S. government was “lumping [Muslims] all together into one.” The government recently ordered local branches of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to count the number of mosques in their respective areas, he said. In addition, the government has arrested legal immigrants whose paperwork was pending because of delays at the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Others expressed more support for the Bush administration’s actions.

James Kirchick ’06, who supported Bill Bradley and Ralph Nader in the 2000 election, said he felt liberals must come to terms with the threat abroad.

“I disagreed with almost everything President Bush said on his domestic agenda,” Kirchick said. “The terrorists who killed us don’t give a damn about what you believe in.”

Peter Somerville ’03, who plans to enter the Marine Corps after graduation, said for 12 years, Saddam Hussein has been in violation of the agreement he made to disarm. He said he was hopeful that disarmament could be accomplished without a war, but is convinced that Iraq must disarm.

“I think that the most dangerous thing we can do with regard to Iraq is nothing,” Somerville said. “I think sometimes war is necessary to defend the peace.”

Some speeches received strong applause while others received weak reactions, but all those who desired to were allowed to speak their minds. Carolyn Rothman ’06, one of the event’s organizers and a member of the Yale Coalition for Peace, praised the open dialogue. Afterwards, she encouraged people on both sides of the issues to engage in further discussion.

“Debate can only strengthen your point of view,” Rothman said. “I think that certainly I would be interested in organizing another one of these things — maybe indoors next time.”

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