Approximately 15 members of the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA) staged a “die-in” outside the entrance to the Brower Student Center on Thursday to bring attention to the “horrors of war,” according to Kara Schlindwein, PSA member.
The plans for the event were finalized on the evening of Wednesday, March 19.
“We intentionally scheduled the demonstration right after the President’s announcement, realizing that most people would probably abandon their previous opinions to support the President and our troops,” Matt Richman, PSA member, said.
Schlindwein said the PSA wanted to show the campus community, as well as the rest of the world, that not all people agree with the war.
“There are students right here on the College campus who do not support (the war),” Schlindwein said. “We feel that this is a worldwide problem. Not all American citizens agree with what is being done in their name.”
Although faced with inclement weather and less-than-cooperative Campus Police, the demonstration went on as planned and lasted from approximately 10:45 to 11:00 a.m.
“Usually demonstrations like these go on until the protestors are removed,” Schlindwein said. “Since there wasn’t a lot of us and we had to go to class, we picked a time and place with a lot of foot traffic and set a beginning and end time.”
During their protest, workers from the student center asked the students who were lying on the ground to move out of the way.
The protestors, however, had no intentions of complying with the request, Richman said.
As a small act of civil disobedience, they disregarded the officer’s demand.
“We wanted people to be forced to notice us – to walk around or over us,” Richman said.
The demonstration was noticed by the surrounding community. It appeared as part of an article in the Trenton Times last week.
Schlindwein was shocked and pleased to see that the protest was discussed outside the College campus. “It shows that we had an effect, that our effort was recognized.”
The group received both positive and negative attention from their fellow classmates. “It went as was expected,” Schlindwein said.
“We got a positive reaction from those students who shared our opinions,” she added.
Although not all students agreed with the protestors’ positions, most reacted positively towards their demonstration of free speech.
Lauren LeBano, sophomore English secondary education major, said, “students should exercise their right to free speech, especially in regard to important issues like the war.”
Others admired the actions of the demonstrators.
“I give them a lot of credit for standing up for their beliefs and doing what they did. I don’t know if I would have enough guts to do anything like that,” Danielle Spezzacatena, sophomore elementary education and sociology major, said.
The administration at the College has reacted positively toward student demonstrations.
A few hours after the “die-in” ended, Kevin Maldonado, Student Organizations Coordinator of the office of Campus Life contacted PSA offering to help them with “logistical support (mics, staging, speakers, etc) or programmatic (planning, advice, etc),” of its anti-war rally planned for later this month.
“We support the students’ rights to demonstrate and for free speech,” said Magda Manetas, dean of the Office of Student Life, said.
Richman said, however, that that there was also negative feedback from the crowd.
“Lying there we could here many people arguing about what was going on,” Richman said.
“I honestly think that they have every right to lay there because they are exercising their first amendment right of free speech – that’s the beauty of democracy,” Jessica Penaranda, freshman law and justice major, said.
“If we protest, it’s a power of voice,” she added.
Overall, Richman and Schlindwein said the PSA’s efforts were a success.
Richman said the demonstration stirred debate over the issues and gave students an outlet to discuss their sentiments on the current state of the world.