In opposition to the bombing of Afghanistan carried out in the last two days by the United States and Great Britain, the Coalition to Stop Scapegoating and the War and Students for a Peaceful Alternative held separate peace rallies yesterday on the Diag. But anti-war chants were just half of what amounted to a day of rhetorical tug-of-war as Young Americans for Freedom led counterdemonstrations at both events.
“This policy of the U.S. can only create more hatred,” said Luke Massie, one of the founders of the Coalition to Stop Scapegoating and the War, during the first protest of the day. Massie is also a leader of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, which initiated the founding of the anti-war coalition last month.
“The Bush administration says this is not a war against Afghanistan. This is what (the government) said about the Vietnam War. It wasn”t true then, and it is not true now,” added Massie.
Not to be outdone, YAF was just as vocal in its support for the American military response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“We, the Young Americans for Freedom, support the U.S. and its effort to maintain freedom,” said LSA senior Peter Apel, the leading voice during the group”s first protest. Apel initiated YAF”s protest after he found out yesterday morning that the anti-war coalition was holding a rally.
A larger group gathered later in the day for another anti-war rally. The demonstration was led by Students for a Peaceful Alternative, a group organized in the past two weeks in response to the war efforts.
The group handed out information about human rights, Middle East tensions, and nonviolent activism, emphasizing the importance of discussion.
“We”re trying to create understanding through education and teach people there is an alternative,” said Allison Garson, a student at Eastern Michigan University.
The anti-war groups held signs reading, “All Bombing is Terrorism,” “I Love America and I Love Peace,” and “No Racist Scapegoating.”
Across the Diag, the YAF waved American flags and chanted “U.S.A.”
“You”re either with us or the terrorists,” said Justin Wilson, an LSA junior and executive director of YAF. During the second rally, the students drew a chalk line on the ground to symbolize this division.
“The peaceniks on campus are trying to find a middle ground, but on this issue, there is no middle ground,” Wilson said. “Protesting the war effort will only prolong it,” he added.
“There is very high tension on both sides. They are completely polarized,” said LSA senior Adam Arola, one of about 50 students who stopped by the Diag to listen to the afternoon rallies.”
Arola added that he wished he could have heard more of “an intelligent conversation” rather than the shouting and name-calling that filled the Diag.
“The (protesters) are leftists who are anti-war and who are abandoning their fundamental principals by tacitly supporting the oppression and deaths of woman and ethnic minorities in Afghanistan,” said Rackham student Justin Shubow.
“The working people who live in Kabul, I”m sure, felt the same way (on Sunday) as the working people in New York felt on Sept. 11. The only difference is the balance of power and who has what military capabilities,” said LSA junior Ben Royal.