When LSA junior Amy Kurtz heard that the Michigan Student Assembly-organized bus to Washington only cost $25, she decided that it was worth it to skip her classes to have an opportunity to see today’s Presidential Inauguration.
“I’m only skipping two of them. However, I would skip all of them if I had to,” she said.
Kurtz is among the 110 University students who packed themselves onto two MSA sponsored buses last night around 7:30 p.m., said RC junior Ashwini Hardikar, co-chair of the MSA’s Peace and Justice Commission. They are expected to arrive by 6 a.m. in Washington, where inaugural and anti-inaugural activities will be unraveling throughout the day. The anti-inaugural events will also be taking place locally today, as students opposed to the president will protest on the Diag and hold a number of other events.
While the events on campus will be put on by Students for Progress — a liberal campus group that seeks to encourage activism — students departing for Washington represented a spectrum of political beliefs. Some came carrying signs with anti-Bush rhetoric, while others came to celebrate Bush’s re-election.
RC Freshman Caroline Hippler and LSA freshman Erica Friedman brought the necessities: a blanket, a Mad-Libs booklet to entertain them on the 12-hour bus ride and white poster boards and markers. As of 6 p.m. yesterday, they had not decided the exact content to paint on their signs, but were brainstorming ideas littered with expletives that chastised Bush as being their president, but as a wasteful leader who supports harmful policies in regards to the economy and environment.
LSA senior Brennen Campbell shared other protesters’ disillusionment with the current administration.
“I felt helpless after the election, so now I want to show support for people who agree with me,” he said.
Not everybody on the buses came to protest. LSA junior Jeston La Croix who is the first vice chair of the College Republicans estimated that approximately 25 members of his club would be attending the inauguration.
“All of us worked on the campaign up until November 2nd. Now we want to celebrate our victory,” he said.
Other Republicans did not mind the presence of the protesters. “It’s their right to protest, if they want to protest,” said Engineering freshman Brian Steers. But he added, “I approve of Bush’s four years and believe he will do a good job in his second term.”
The student demographic not only consisted of protesters and supporters, but also included the politically neutral.
“It’s not really to support our President as I’m apathetic at this point. It is a good opportunity to see an inauguration,” said Music School freshman Rob Vuichard.
To show solidarity with the anti-inaugural events in Washington, there will be a series of events held in Ann Arbor. Five to six speakers will collectively talk at the Diag rally for approximately thirty to thirty-five minutes about the inauguration activities, said Students for Progress Member and LSA senior Ryan Watkins. Eventually, they will open it up to anybody who wants to speak.
“Tomorrow is not about opposing one person as president, but about everyone sharing their opinion. Some of us stayed behind, because we wanted to hear everyone’s voice on campus, “ he said.
Following this, four professors will be participating in a teach-in that will be held in the second floor ballroom in Haven Hall. The professors and students will try to engage in a dialogue about political issues such as the war in Iraq and Bush’s performance as president.
One of the speakers, RC Lecturer Helen Fox described the teach-in as “an-out-of-class, progressive take on an event that students (can come) to in the spur of the moment where people speak to counter what’s going on in the country,” Fox said.
“People express their views, usually against the status quo and against politics in Washington.” She said that she herself will speak about what she thinks will happen in Iraq from her position as a pacifist.
— Daily Staff Reporter Adhiraj Dutt contributed to this report