The Great Rutgers Walkout!!!
By: Ian Chinich
New Brunswick, New Jersey
March 20, 2007
At Rutgers University today, business was not as usual. At 1:30 pm students started filing out of their campuses to join the antiwar rally going on at the Vietnam memorial to mark the fourth anniversary of the war. The approximately 400 students who showed up completely dwarfed the counter protesters (including several members of the black leather jacket wearing rolling thunder group that showed up). One group of students walking out carried a sign that said “Historians opposed to history repeating”
Energy was really high as the United Black Council and CASA speakers rallied the crowd around issues like Black and Latinos fighting in the war and racism. Suzan Sanal and Erik Straub of Rutgers Against the War and Tent State respectively engaged the crowd about the costs of the war on Americans and the lack of money being spent on domestic programs like education. Arwa Ibrahim, an Iraqi American student speaker of BAKA (Belief Awareness Knowledge and Activism) gave the Iraqi perspective of the occupation. Afterwards, two veterans spoke. The first, former captain Chad Hetman, was interrupted from a counter chant of “USA USA” to which he replied, “To the couple of you yelling USA…it reminds me of when the Italians used to yelled IL DOUCHE… Its funny how you claim to be opposed to fascists but you are fascists!!!” His comment brought laughter and cheering. Keith Krebs talked about his former colleague in Rutgers ROTC who had been responsible for torture in Abu Ghraib and how Rutgers ignored this fact.
Then an announcement was made because the next speaker was a gold star mother. That did not stop a couple of counter protesters from yelling at Sue Niederer as she spoke about the pain caused by her son’s death. She called out the counter protesters and there was instant silence in the whole crowd. After repeatedly asking one counter protester to come forward, he did. He told her “I was in Iraq!” The antiwar vets countered with “where were you stationed?”
He responded with “well, I was in Kuwait.” The crowd laughed and Sue continued. After her heart wrenching speech, another veteran called upon everyone to march on the recruiting station, “We are going for a little walk…I want to see everyone here march on the marine recruiting station on George street. For those few people here that are in favor of the war, I will walk with you to help sign you up when we get there!”
A march ensued behind a large banner that said “Students End the War” and a small contingent of anarchists with drums and whistles playing music. Hundreds of students marched on the Marine Recruitment Station and chanted over the complaints of the angry recruiters working there. After several chants and speeches, everyone decided to march on route 18 along the road, shutting down much of the traffic. Police just watched as the hundreds of students continued to make their way along, eventually returning up George Street towards the university president’s office. Finally the march ended back at the Vietnam memorial where groups gave more speeches including a campaign to stop a Homeland security program being funded at Rutgers to root out un-American activity on the web.
Students stayed for several more minutes chanting and mingling even after the next group of classes was letting out. The energy was fantastic and it was the largest walkout at Rutgers since the Vietnam War. We encouraged participants to help us campaign against the war and we got many interested people to sign up on our list serves. POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!!!