Revolution #145, October 19, 2008

From a Reader:

Claremont Students Detain
“War Criminal” Karl Rove

Chanting “War Criminal, War Criminal,” 300 Claremont College students protested a speech by Karl Rove on September 16 and kept him from leaving the building for an hour and a half after his speech. He was only able to escape after his security, “guys in suits,” busted through a door, shoved and pushed their way through those trying to keep him from leaving, and then, frantically, made a mad dash to a waiting car and sped away at a very high speed, almost running over several protesters and some students who were not part of the demonstration. Several students were pepper sprayed by the head of security for Claremont McKenna College.

One of the students who participated in the event called this “very exciting” and was very uplifted that “students had been able to pull off a very successful demonstration.”

Rove was invited to speak at the Claremont McKenna College’s Marian Minor Cook Athenaeum on “Politics and the Presidency.” Claremont McKenna (CMC) is one of the five, and the most conservative, of all colleges on the Claremont campus, which is located 40 miles east of Los Angeles. During the week prior to the speech over 30 students from all of the colleges held two meetings to plan for the protest action.

Early in the evening they militantly marched to where Rove was speaking, with drums beating and chants proclaiming Rove’s criminality in torture and war. Someone poured red pool dye (which is non-toxic) in a pool adjacent to the building where Rove was speaking, representing the blood of those who have lost their lives in Iraq. While Rove was speaking inside, the students held a teach-in, where several professors gave their “alternative views on politics and the presidency.” People carried signs opposing torture, the Iraq war, and the “lies, deception, and terror” of the Bush Regime. Banners proclaiming “War Criminal” were hung from the top of the McKenna Auditorium. There was an open mic where people could speak, and someone sang a song:

“Architect of terror
architect of hate
throw the man in jail
lock his ass away”

Despite the fact that many at CMC tried to paint this as just a small group from only one of the colleges, the demonstration was attended by students from all of the Claremont Colleges (Pomona, Pitzer, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, and Harvey Mudd), along with people from the community.

Demonstrators organized themselves into groups to block all the entrances of the building and to surround cars parked nearby that they thought would be used to whisk Rove away. Even when Rove’s security thought they found a way out by crossing a second level into another building, the students were able to gather themselves to block the doors of that building.

The demonstrators sat in front of Claremont cop cars to block them from being used to remove Rove. The Claremont police were out in riot gear with pepper spray in their hands trying to intimidate the protesters. At one point the cops tried to arrest a woman student, but the students all linked arms with her preventing the arrest from taking place.

When Rove left the building, several students attempted to make a citizen’s arrest for his “crimes against humanity” but were thwarted from doing this by the Claremont police.

The protest was covered by the Los Angeles Times as well as by all the papers in the local area, and it was all over the blogosphere. In response to attacks on the students by Charles Johnson of CMC on the LA Times website for trying to disrupt Rove’s speech, a Pitzer student responded online with, “It might be annoying to admit, but this protest was entirely acceptable, especially in light of the long list of crimes that have been ascribed to the man who came to speak.”

The students have been very buoyed up by this action. Afterwards 30-40 people met to discuss what had happened that night and to figure out “how to hold on to and continue the energy” that was created by this demonstration. One student who participated said, “We want to take this further than just discussions about what is wrong by bringing a sense of action to our outrages, which are not just against the Iraq war, but include things like workers rights and opposing the Minutemen.”

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