About 150 Yale students gathered on Cross Campus Friday in response to the victory of President George W. Bush ’68 over Sen. John Kerry ’66 in the Nov. 2 election to share their disappointment and organize their efforts to further liberal causes over the next four years.
Informally known as the “Anti-Bush Bazaar,” the gathering featured ideas to channel post-election depression and a “Don’t Mourn, Organize” board that, by the hour-long event’s end, was covered with meeting dates, emotional notes and calls to action. About 15 conservative counter-protestors carrying Bush-Cheney signs joined them to “show that it was by the will of the people that Bush was elected president,” said Robert Chung ’06, leader of the now-disbanded Students For Bush.
Julia Gonzales ’05, one of the organizers, said the event’s coordinators were stunned by the turnout, since the rally was the product of 10 activists informally meeting and deciding to bombard progressive e-mail lists for the 36 hours before the rally.
The emotional current of the event ranged from exhausted — Helena Herring ’07, the event’s unofficial master of ceremonies, and many of the other students had spent their summers and spare time campaigning for Kerry — to angry to apprehensive.
“It was great to see everyone coming together even though they supported different causes,” Nick Seaver ’07, chairman of the Yale college chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said. “This was a great outlet for all the negative energy we had.”
Causes mentioned at the rally ranged from abortion rights to environmental awareness, and many liberal groups, including the Undergraduate Organizing Committee and the Reproductive Rights Action League at Yale, advertised themselves as ways for liberal students to stay politically active.
Al Jiwa ’06, president of the Yale College Republicans and part of the pro-Bush rally, spoke to the gathered students, urging them to look for issues on which they could work with their conservative peers. Jiwa specifically cited bringing the Reserve Officer Training Corps back to Yale — students participating in ROTC have not received academic credit from the University since 1969 — as “the perfect opportunity to work together.”
Jiwa said the conservative contingent on Cross Campus was “very quiet,” choosing to focus on “opening up a dialogue with fellow students” instead of disrupting the rally.
“We thought it was going to be about loud chants and posters and contesting the election results,” he said. “Instead, it turned out to be more of an organizational event.”
The event’s nomenclature led to some of the confusion, Gonzales said.
“It really was not anti-Bush so much as it was pro-change,” she said. “It was a gathering of students who are really excited about not moving to Canada, about sticking around and working for the next four years.”
In fact, Gonzales said, part of the rally’s purpose was to create a new umbrella for all of the left-wing movements on campus.
“We can’t just all gather as anti-Bush, because that has clearly failed,” she said.
By the end of the rally, Jiwa said, the mass of progressive students broke off into a dozen smaller groups to continue conversing.
“Most of those groups had at least one conservative student in them,” he said. “That is what dialogue means.”
Marissa Levendis ’07, one of the event organizers, said she felt that the counter-rally was inappropriate.
“Nobody on our side was holding a Kerry-Edwards sign,” she said. “It wasn’t about Democrats versus Republicans. Here at Yale, there are a whole heck of a lot of venues for dialogue, and this was supposed to be a meeting about action.”
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