By Emily Vance and Chris DeVille
November 3, 2005
The Post (Athens, Ohio)
They banged on buckets. They chanted into megaphones. Then the sea of protesters paraded from College Green down the middle of Court Street to the Army Recruitment Office at 25 Grosvenor St., calling for an end to the Bush presidency.
At 10:30 a.m. yesterday, students walked out of their classes to participate in the protest, organized by an Athens affiliate of World Can’t Wait, a national grassroots movement. The coalition’s goal is to “drive out the Bush regime” and draw attention to many of the injustices within the U.S. government, according to the group’s Web site, http://www.worldcantwait.net. About 150 people attended the rally and march, composed of students, a few faculty members, Athens residents and several out-of-towners.
The group met at the West Portico of Templeton-Blackburn AlumniMemorial Auditorium. The protest’s organizers spoke about their objection to the Army’s recruitment strategies and President Bush’s foreign policy, especially the administration’s rationale for the war in Iraq and its lack of an exit strategy.
As the group prepared to head down Court Street, many bystanders stood back and watched. Not everyone on College Green agreed with the protesters’ message.
“It’s a joke; it’s just pitter-patter,” said CharJie Vansant, an OU junior who was watching the protesters on the green. “And I think it’s a terrible thing to judge the success of a war
based on its casualties.”
At about 11:15 a.m.. the demonstrators headed through College Gate and down Court Street, toting signs bearing anti-Bush and antiwar slogans.
They marched past several Athens Police officers who instructed them to stay on the sidewalk – which most protesters did not do – and past Dean of Students Terry Hogan, who was watching the swarm of people from outside College Book Store.
“I think it’s important that students express their opinions on political matters in a lawful manner,” Hogan said of the protest.
When they arrived at the recruitment center, the protesters were greeted by an Athens woman holding a poster on the front steps that read, “U.S. Military: Duty, Honor, Country: You? Selfish SWINE.”
Protesters initially tried to move the woman, later identified as Monica Gaszyonyi, but she stayed put, chanting, “Go to hell.” She even began waving a small U.S. flag in front of protesters’ flags, which protesters said symbolized social change.
Gaszyonyi was the sole counter-protester at the recruitment office, but men who were either enlisted in the armed services or members of OU’s ROTC program, watched the demonstration.
Inside, two U.S. Army recruiters ate lunch and answered phone calls while the crowd outside chanted to “shut it down.”
In response to the crowd outside his window, Maj. Tim Hardy said the protest seemed peaceful and that he has no problem with people expressing their First Amendment rights.
When asked what he planned to do for the rest of the afternoon, Sgt. Tim Roseberry replied, “Recruiting.”
The demonstrators remained outside at the recruitment office until about 1:20 p.m. Two organizers and several masked men with noise buckets remained on the front steps as the rest of the group left.
The protest yesterday was one of many orchestrated by World Can’t Wait in more than 180 cities nationwide, including Atlanta, Washington, Chicago and New York.
The national World Can’t Wait movement is associated with the Communist Party, but the Athens chapter disassociated itself with the communist affiliation, said Mark Gaffney, president of the OU College Democrats. He said he chose not to be involved with the demonstrators.
“I don’t believe you can be part of a national movement and not part of a national movement at the same time,” Gaffney said. However, “the expressed goal of the local campaign seems to be admirable,” he said.
“I think going after the recruiters is counterproductive to their mission. They talk about dead soldiers, but then they want to take away the reinforcements for those soldiers,” OU College Republicans President Jordan Carr said.
Carr compared the protesters to the radicals of the 1960s. “I wouldn’t give them that much prestige right now, though,” he added.