The day after the election, about 200 students gathered in front of Olin Library for an anti-war rally organized by WesPeace, an organization of students, faculty and staff against armed conflict.
According to the organizers of the rally, war will persist regardless of who is president. Organizers cited this as their rationale for holding the demonstration one day after the election.
Five speakers and two musical groups addressed the audience from the top of the Olin steps during the hour. Though the speakers briefly mentioned the election of the previous day, the United States’ military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan were the main issues discussed.
Channel 8 News, an ABC affiliate, covered the rally.
The mood of the crowd was solemn, and students were attentive to the speakers.
“I was crying,” said Brooke Duling ’07. “But the speakers were also reminding us that the results of this election do not mean an end to the efforts of activists.”
Other attendees also commented on the positive mood of the rally.
“It was a great start to the new Bush administration,” said Jonathan Cutler, Assistant Professor of Sociology and American Studies.
Several observers agreed that Kathleen McTigue, a Unitarian Universalist minister from New Haven, Conn. was the most poignant speaker at the event. McTigue is a long-time peace activist and an important proponent of queer rights within the religious community.
“Being an activist is a way of life, not just an effort to end one war or another,” said McTigue in her speech.
McTigue dedicated a large portion of her speech to patriotism in politics today.
“We are patriots,” she said to the crowd. “Don’t let conservatives claim the flag for themselves, and don’t let anyone from the left tell you that patriotism isn’t for you, either. There should be flags here today.”
Many of the speakers at the rally were members of WesPeace, which was founded two years ago as a faculty and staff organization. At that time, according to Kelly Anthony, Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology and member of WesPeace, U.S. sanctions were severely damaging Iraq and war seemed to be in the air.
The faculty and staff members of WesPeace officially decided to admit Wesleyan students to the organization just five days prior to Wednesday’s rally.
Anthony briefly spoke about her experiences traveling to the University of Baghdad to meet her colleagues there just a few days before United States forces invaded. At the rally, Anthony read concerned letters from her friends in Iraq.
Arian Sharifi ’07 spoke about living in Afghanistan his whole life until the Taliban forced him to flee the country several years ago. According to Sharifi, the topic of Afghanistan no longer seems to be a part of the political dialogue about the Middle East.
“It has been three years since the Taliban collapsed,” Sharifi said. “There have been no major achievements since then. There is aid pouring into Iraq right now, while people still do not have jobs in Afghanistan.”
Two of the student organizers, Mike Butterfield ’06 and Sacha Feinman ’05, also made speeches. Feinman identified, in his words, a frightening lack of political activism on the Wesleyan campus.
“Sacha’s remarks were impressive and incredibly important,” Cutler said. “Trying to figure out the hush that has fallen over the campus and finding our voices again, are the most urgent tasks going forward.”
While most students said that there should be more political activism on campus, some of them are looking forward to improvements on Wednesday’s rally.
“There seems to be a lack of a true student leader,” said Sam Fleischner ’05. “I don’t think this rally had the right tone. We need to be more optimistic.”
Moxy Trissel ’07 also commented on a need for change in student activist efforts.
“I think small, tangible activism can be more effective than larger forms,” Trissel said. “Rallies are a bit like funerals. They are more for the people who are there, as opposed to being for the people they are about.”
According to members of WesPeace, they intend for the organization to be a large presence on campus in the future.