VP Cheney’s speaks at BYU’s commencement later today (at 4pm). At noon BYU students and faculty demonstrated in a “Go Forth – Establish Peace” rally. It was held at the west entrance to campus, at the “Enter to Learn – Go Forth to Serve” sign.
In general, it was focused on peace. The most prominent signs were 10’ tall scrolls with Peace written in 28 languages. Some of the other signs were:
“Support this: “Therefore, Renounce war and proclaim peace. D&C 98:16”
“If we’re going to fight a war, let it be a war on poverty”
“1/2 the world lives on less than $2 a day”
There were a few signs that targeted Cheney such as, “Was it Divine Inspiration to Vote Bush/Cheney…or just Temporary Insanity.”
Another example (shown in the photo) was the sign “Torture is Treason” placed next to a black-robed figure with his arms extended and face down.
There seemed to be about 60 people and 40 or so signs at the time I dropped in.
A fair number of cars going by honked in support, some passersby yelled out support, some yelled out, in apparent disagreement with the rally, statements such as, “USA! USA!” “God Bless America!” and “Losers!”
Across the street the “Veterans for Peace” were holding a smaller, separate demonstration. Ten to fifteen men were holding signs and speaking with a bullhorn. Some of there signs were:
“You lied, they died.”
“Cheney= Gadianton — Obvious!”
“Support the warrior, not the war”
“Nobody has emboldened the insurgents more than President Bush.”
A couple of the men in that demonstration engaged in a little “mission creep.” One guy with a “Utah Minuteman” cap on had a sign that read, “No borders, no constitution.” Until I read the lettering on his cap I had a difficult time figuring out his message.
At the Provo Library (the renovated BYU Academy building on 500 N. University), the College Republicans (I think) sponsored a 12-2pm pro-Cheney rally. They had advertised free food, but I didn’t see any of that. I dropped by twice, at 12:00 and about 1:00, and saw about 15 and 40 people, respectively. University Avenue was lined with U.S. flags (every 5 meters) on both sides of road.
I missed Cheney’s speech at the graduation ceremony due to a child’s activity, but attended the Alternative Commencement with student speeches and Ralph Nader, former Amnesty International director Jack Healy, and former U.S. Senate candidate Pete Ashdown as invited speakers. I found the two students’ and Jack Healy’s speech the most interesting, along with Gabe Dominguez’ (Shake Your Peace) song about his experience protesting the war in NYC.
Around 1100 people attended the event, faculty and students walked in the procession (I was taking a child to the restroom so don’t have a good count of the number walking).
As with the rallies earlier in the day, there were many photographers and film videographers present, and I would expect there will be a documentary (or several) out soon. I’ll be interested to learn the details on claims I’ve heard that the Alternative Commencement group couldn’t find any high schools or other venues in Provo that would allow the event, and that some Provo business said they would “blacklist” students that walked in the alternative procession (Joe Vogel has posts on these claims here and here). I find the latter hard to believe, unless it’s just a couple of small places.
A benefit of holding the alternative commencement at UVSC is that the McKay Events center is adjacent to the baseball stadium. Before the commencement we snacked on some decent stadium hot dogs, and afterwards, we were able to catch the last inning of UVSC’s 8-5 win over the University of Washington.
I had heard some talk of possible additional protest activities (students wearing orange hunting vests at the Cheney speech, a mock over the truthfulness of Cheney’s statements made about collaboration by Iraq’s Hussein and the 9/11 perpetrators, and a diploma-burning event to protest the honorary degree). But, I have heard no reports any of these occuring, and assume they didn’t. My guess is that the other demonstrations and the alternative commencement provided enough voice to the anti-Cheney sentiment that there wasn’t enough motivation to carry out (what seem to me to be) more extreme statements.
Some news articles describing the above events:
Shurtleff blasts ‘Iraqi Rocky’ and ‘Hezbollah Harry’ at BYU rally (Salt Lake Tribune)
Cheney demonstrators follow BYU conduct rules, but passers-by less civil (Salt Lake Tribune)
Nader challenges decision to invite v.p. (Deseret News)
Cheney encourages BYU graduates to be ready for the future (Provo Daily Herald, includes link to audio recording of Cheney’s speech)
Quiet Protest Greets Vice President Cheney at BYU (NPR radio segment)
A detailed photo essay by OneLowerLight