For members of the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA), March 19 was a day for black armbands and anti-war chants as they took to the campus with pickets in hand to mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
A “speak-out” was just one of the events PSA and the department of History sponsored on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War. The day began with PSA members handing out hundreds of black armbands with the number “5” painted on them. Protesters on college campuses across the nation wore them to remind the public that it has been five years since the war began.
“The armbands provoke conversation. People ask why we are wearing an armband with a five on it. They don’t realize how long it (the war) has been going on. A lot of people are against the war, but they just don’t know how to show it,” Chris Hohmuth, PSA president, said.
Equipped with anti-war signs and the armbands, approximately 20 protesters marched around campus chanting “One, two, three, four, end this unjust war.”
The demonstration reached the residence halls and concluded at the student center, where the speak-out began. PSA members and other students shared personal stories and opinions about why they oppose the war.
They were joined by a faculty member. Richard Kamber, professor of philosophy, took the stage, presenting what he called “the outline of the answer” to the question of how to pull out of Iraq while leaving it a stable nation.
“The outline of the answer is to have … the widest possible international cooperation,” Kamber said. “This needs to be a worldwide project.”
But not all was peaceful during the demonstration. While a PSA member was speaking on stage about his opposition to the war in Iraq,an alumnus circled around the stage while eating a sandwich and shouting pro-war remarks like “This war will not end,” and “You made up those statistics.”
He then proceeded to have a heated argument about the war with several PSA members, which escalated into insults and name-calling. The alumnus then threw his sandwich and chips at Matt Hoke, sophomore history major, and pushed Hohmuth, who pushed back.
While several students tried to ease tensions and calm both parties, a verbal altercation over opposing positions on the war continued between the alumnus and Hoke, Hohmuth and Randy Reali, senior biomedical and mechanical engineering major.
Campus Police was called and PSA members told one officer they were being verbally assaulted and had to defend themselves. They also said the alumnus was looking to fight someone and that they just wanted him to be removed from the student center.
The police officers then led the almunus and those involved in the altercation to Campus Police headquarters.
After the confrontation, the remaining PSA members took to the stage to apologize for the incident but also warned that what had just happened was a prime example of what is wrong with the country today and that fighting about the war in this manner does not resolve anything.
“We need to go back to kindergarten,” Reali said.
“Even 5-year-olds know that you don’t need to kick down other people’s blocks to make your own block tower,” he said.
Hoke performed an anti-war rap he had written while another student shared a story about his brother who was sent to Iraq after he had joined the Army to pay off college loans.
Kate Whitman, sophomore English major, said it is the bureaucrats in Washington who are at war with the Iraqi people, not the American public.
“While we are pouring our money into Iraq, there are a million other better places the money can go,” she said.
Others agreed that the money going to Iraq is financially burdening for American citizens.
Greg Marino, junior history major, warned, “Our children and grandchildren will be paying for this war.”
“We will be in debt for a long time because of it,” he said.