RNC sparks student activism

While most Yale students were moving boxes from storage, decorating their rooms, and catching up with friends on Sunday, Miranda Jones ’06 and Abe Koogler ’06 were marching along the streets of New York City, decked out in their finest despite the 90 degree heat.

Dressed facetiously as “Billionaires for Bush,” Jones and Koogler were just two of the many Yale undergraduates who joined approximately 500,000 fellow protesters in New York on the opening day of the Republican National Convention.

Two months from the presidential election, Yalies have found themselves increasingly inspired to participate in political events like Sunday’s protest.

Jones said she attended the demonstration because she had been looking for something to “move” her ever since attending a peace protest in San Francisco during spring break, where she was impressed by the participants’ dedication to their cause. Joining the “Billionaires for Bush” protest was a last–minute decision, she said: Koogler asked her about it at midnight during a party the night before.

At the protest, Jones witnessed an altercation between the police and otherwise non–violent protestors that she compared to a present–day version of footage from Civil Rights protests.

“To see people that dedicated to something in this day and age in America … it was just really exciting,” Jones said. “We haven’t seen people of our generation moved that politically in a mass way before, but that passion exists right now.”

While Jones and Koogler may not have planned in advance, Josh Eidelson ’06 said he had been hoping to protest for a long time. Eidelson, who spent the summer registering voters in Florida, said that protesting provided another opportunity to share his politics with like–minded activists.

“I thought it was a very powerful demonstration,” Eidelson said. “It was great to get a chance to be there.”

Some Yalies who did not attend Sunday’s protest participated in the Democratic and Republican National conventions in other capacities. Esme von Hoffman ’06, who worked for the Kerry campaign over the summer, worked for the Democratic National Convention Finance Committee in her native Boston for a week.

“While I’ve been interested in politics, I never would have thought I’d be so involved in it,” von Hoffman said. “I think it’s definitely this election that got me interested.”

Though she noted Barack Obama’s and Bill Clinton’s speeches as high points, von Hoffman said the best part of the convention was the atmosphere.

“My favorite thing was the thrill of being there. There’s so much energy when you’re in the convention hall,” von Hoffman said.

Republican National Convention volunteer Brian Cook ’05 said he, too, was impressed by the energy and excitement inside his party’s convention hall. Cook, who worked at the RNC for two days, said it was “incredible” to see politicians whose faces were familiar from television in person, including former president George Bush.

Cook, a political science major, described himself as active in both campus politics and the local politics of his hometown of Fairfield. Cook credited the RNC with “bringing together Republicans of all ages,” since the majority of the volunteers are in their mid–twenties while the majority of delegates are in their late forties or older. The wide range in ages demonstrated to him the potential for life–long political involvement, he said.

Whether they had a long history of political involvement or little more than their convictions, Yale students want to be involved in what has been heralded as a historic contest.

For Eidelson, that involvement means continued voter outreach in New Haven, along with the most fundamental method of political involvement.

“I’m certainly excited to show up to vote,” Eidelson said.

Young people protest the Bush administration outside the Republican National Convention in New York City Sunday. Yale students backing both Bush and Kerry traveled to the Big Apple to participate in the four-day political event.
Stephen Butler
Young people protest the Bush administration outside the Republican National Convention in New York City Sunday. Yale students backing both Bush and Kerry traveled to the Big Apple to participate in the four-day political event.

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