Modesto, CA - It is Thursday, April 4th, and the grassy lawns at the center of Modesto Junior College's East Campus are alive with student activists staging peaceful protests in what seems to be a time honored tradition for the college crowd.
At the heart of the activity is the Patriot Rally, hosted by the PoliSci Industry Club. Stereo speakers here and there across the lawn play popular hits while spectators are encouraged to stop for a moment and support the troops. Knots of students gather in amiable conversation with servicemen and veterans from past conflicts, enjoying the sun and freshly barbequed food. A video camera works its way around, filming words of appreciation to be sent overseas.
The Rally, organized by Kevin Roberts, is to serve the dual purpose of creating a public demonstration of support for servicemen and women in the current conflict and of raising money for the PoliSci Club's Model United Nations, a student activity that has been closely analyzing the current conflict in Iraq. As a political statement, the pro-troop Rally has already made more of a splash than efforts the previous week to stage an anti-war walkout. Part of the rally's success may be due to a lack of emphasis on ethical issues. "There's been way more support for this than the walkout," explains club member Ashley Bell, staffing a concession tent. "We're not saying support killing, just support our troops."
While the majority of students seem to share this conservative sentiment, there are a few notable exceptions. On the steps of the Student Center, grinning loiters periodically shout enthusiastic pro-war remarks like, "Kick Saddam's ***!" These comments are possibly directed at the small table nearby, resolutely manned by a handful of anti-war protesters from the Student Activists Club.
Armed with picket signs, Student Activists like Corine Brown are eager to share their views with any passers-by who pause for discussion. "We created this whole conflict. In the 80's, Reagan's administration sold forty percent of the materials used to make Iraq's chemical weapons to the Iraqi regime, and they did it knowingly. People need to know the whole story." As a classmate passes by and calls out to ask her what she's doing, Brown interrupts herself to answer. "You know me, trying to start a revolution."
The comment harkens back to the student protests of the Viet Nam War in the 1960's, the lasting legacy of which does not seem to be peace as much as the tradition of protesting itself. Although some of the students out here making statements about their views seem to be more intense than others, they all seem to enjoy the opportunity to hold a public demonstration. And that's a revolution that will live on.
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