Archive for Saturday, November 4, 2006

Student protests not what they used to be

November 4, 2006

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Say "protest" and you think of hundreds or thousands of marchers or shouting students on a college campus in the 1960s.

But the sight of burning flags or freedom marches is much less common today among college students or others, even though the protest is still a tactic some groups use to speak out, including against proposed immigration laws, the Iraq war or to picket funerals.

"I think there is a significant student involvement now, but it was much larger in the Vietnam War," said William Scott, a Kansas University English professor.

Scott recalls sizable protests on campus during that era, and he attributes it to the draft, the tens of thousands of American deaths in the Vietnam War and the days before the 26th Amendment, which bumped the voting age down to 18.

Lawrence resident George Ulbrick, 57, last attended a protest 38 years ago in Grant Park in Chicago before the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He plans to hold a sign to speak out against the Iraq war on Sunday evening when President Bush visits Topeka to stump for Republican candidates.

"I come from the generation of the '60s where letting somebody know how you feel really did sway the course of the country, and I think it could happen again," Ulbrick said.

Many people in the country have become apathetic or caught in a mindset that one person can accomplish little, Ulbrick said. He attended a Friday night event in the east Lawrence studio of artist Dave Loewenstein, 411 E. Ninth St., with about a dozen others to prepare signs - mostly anti-war - to protest Bush's appearance Sunday.

Vietnam War protesters march on the Kansas University campus in April of 1966. William Scott, a KU English professor, says, "I think there is a significant student involvement now, but it was much larger in the Vietnam War."

Vietnam War protesters march on the Kansas University campus in April of 1966. William Scott, a KU English professor, says, "I think there is a significant student involvement now, but it was much larger in the Vietnam War."

Most students today seem to have knowledge of political issues but less of them directly express themselves, Scott said.

Jenny Collins, a Shawnee senior in religious studies, said during her college career she had stopped by a women's rights demonstration once in front of Watson Library, but other than that she hasn't done sign-holding or shouting.

"It's really easy to placate our generation because we are so insulated," she said. "Especially being lucky enough to be in college and all of that, there's a lot of things that we are isolated from that are important issues, and because we don't have to see them or live with them every day, it's really easy to forget about them."

Protesting often also becomes alienating and more of a spectacle, Collins said.

"The point of protesting free speech is not to shout down the other person with your opinions but to let them have theirs and to be able to form some line of communication with that," she said.

Lawrence Police officers remove one of several protesters at the U.S. Army Recruiting center at 23rd and Louisiana in this February file photo. Although some still use protests to attract attention, they aren't what they were in the 1960s, and they don't occur as often.

Lawrence Police officers remove one of several protesters at the U.S. Army Recruiting center at 23rd and Louisiana in this February file photo. Although some still use protests to attract attention, they aren't what they were in the 1960s, and they don't occur as often.

Scott, a longtime KU English professor, said he occasionally participates in the weekend vigils and downtown anti-war marches through the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice, a group that has hosted weekly Saturday war protest rallies outside the Douglas County Courthouse since Sept. 7, 2002.

A few people waited in line for tickets to Bush's speech Friday afternoon at the headquarters of the Douglas County Republican Party, 3010 Iowa. Some of the president's supporters quickly snatched up the first 100 tickets and the next 100 were going fast as well, said Richard Todd, chairman of the county party.

Todd said protesting has become a tactic lately of fewer people who do it more often at more places, but he prefers "more positive" involvement in campaigns or at the voting booth.

"I don't have a problem with people protesting. Trying to shout people down and violence and threats and making people insecure about attending a rally is different," he said.

Whether for or against a certain issue or politician, some Lawrence groups still use protesting to draw attention to their point. But it's not easy, Ulbrick said.

"It's taking a stand that exposes you to criticism or to contrary views, and people would rather stay in the shadows," he said. "Obviously, anyone who has an opinion should stand behind it and be strong."

Comments

kugrad 8 years, 8 months ago

There were some great protests in the 80's on campus that focused on trying to get KU to divest from South Africa and on US sponsored terrorism in Nicaragua and El Salvador. There was some great theatre, literate speeches, and some real pressure put on the administration. Eventually, KU did divest from South Africa and the demonstrations certainly helped raise awareness of the issue. The 60's were not the only time when there were lots of demonstrations, but it may have been more fashionable then. It is harder to demonstrate when demonstrating is out of style. That is when it takes more gumption.

compmd 8 years, 8 months ago

Yes, protesting has changed. Lawrence is definitely lacking the shootings and bombings it had back in the day. I guess that's a good thing.

Richard Ballard 8 years, 8 months ago

Sigmund, you are dead wrong.

The young collage students / protesters / arsonists in the 60's were not fat. The huge majority of them were skinny with long hair.

You got the rest of it pretty much spot on though!

rcmodel

geekin_topekan 8 years, 8 months ago

The last thing I went to that resembled a protest was at the old jail when a man named Mark Parker was being held for trespassing after a sit-in at the Chancellor's office.Something about Apartheid. Personally,I was on my way to score a bag of Marijuana but my friends were there singing "we shall over come..." while holding candles. One young lady(she seemed older at the time,I was 17)with long,flowing blond hair was set herself aflame.The candles created a distraction to a passing motorist who crashed into the back of a car that was waiting for a red light at 11th and Mass. I don't recall any police presence but I do recall Mark standing on a chair from his cell block and waving to us from upstairs.In those days you could look out from the jail down on Mass street or south park.

savethedaffy 8 years, 8 months ago

My dad always tells me of the sit-ins and walk-outs he participated in while he was attending high school and college. It seems like my generation is just a little too apathetic to understand how the current political agenda is directly affecting them. Walk into my high school and ask the first 10...hell, even 20 students you see, if they give a damn about the fact their government is entirely run by big business and special interests? Or, if they think they'll ever see their social security check when they grow older? They will respond with "Uhh, what? No. What do you mean my social security check? I get a check? Money?! Where? I need more money, maaaaan." I am generalizing here, not all of the students in my high school are like this, but I think there's got to be a healthy balance between being a carefree teenager and still knowing enough about the political agenda in this nation and the world to conduct a peaceful protest as it was done during the civil rights movement. Oh, wait...a protest in school in 2006 would be disrupting the educational process, therefore a violation of rules, and we now have 36 video surveillence cameras to make sure each and every non-apathetic individual is caught standing up for his or her opinion.

a2thek 8 years, 8 months ago

You know what I think of when I think of protesters, a bunch of Indians protesting on New Hampshire Street.

Or Phelps Gay haters, those are the diehard/hater protesters.

classclown 8 years, 8 months ago

What I think of is some idiot pad locking his throat to a door. Or someone laying out in the grass getting a tan with a sign somewhere near him.

Sigmund 8 years, 8 months ago

Ironically this is the anniversary of the one "student protest" that brought down the Carter Administration and led directly to Ronald Reagan being elected and then reelected in a landslide!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran_hostage_crisis

Richard Ballard 8 years, 8 months ago

I got to take part in the protests / riots here in Lawrence. As a Kansas National Guard member.

As I remember, it wasn't all that much fun.

What with all the arson fires, shootings on both sides, piano wire strung across dark alleys for the Cops & Guardsmen to run into, hunting arrows stuck in jeeps, curfews & pass cards to get to work at night, etc.

Now, some of those same people who tried to burn Lawrence down are running our fair city!

I guess we won the battle, and lost the war!

rcmodel

gwjayhawk 8 years, 8 months ago

Funny that this article comes out today....

President Bush will be in Topeka tomorrow. ;)

lovenhaight 8 years, 8 months ago

If "this generation of young people is worthless", whose fault is that? I believe that it was members of the older generation who kept us insulated and placated, after all, they are our parents. Don't feel like you have the license to insult an entire generation because you are bitter about your glory days. There are a lot of us who actually care about things other than I-Pods and cell phones, and negative people like you make it harder for us to get anything accomplished.

oldgoof 8 years, 8 months ago

Sure students still protest, but to get there they don't march but drive their SUV's (adorned simultaneously with yellow ribbons and sailing logos) with one hand as they talk on their cell phone with the other.

Sigmund 8 years, 8 months ago

The young people in the 60's were as fat, lazy, stupid, hooked on drugs and promiscuous sex as todays youth. The major difference? Today there is no involuntary conscription into the US military, which was the major driver of the antiwar movement in the 60's. "Hell No! We Won't Go!", was not so much a analysis of the geopolitical implications of the presences of the US forces in southeast Asia as it was anthem in support of remaining fat, lazy, stupid, hooked on drugs and promiscuous sex in the safety of a US college campus.

monkeywrench1969 8 years, 8 months ago

PErsonally I think a lot of the younger people ARE much smarter than their protesting fore fathers. They have so much more access to all types of information that they can form their own opinion without being confrontational in a protest.

Although there are many more convieniences than before such as cell phones the fact many are equiped with cameras tend to make people more honest in ways. In the 60's 70's and 80's it was much harder to catch many in high places doing bad...but now anyone can be caught with a cell phone video screwing up and exposed in a more timely manner on one of the major news agencies or youtube.com.

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