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Protest Bush At Furman University CommencementMay 31, 2008
CODEPINK Greenville, SC and CODEPINK Richmond, VA
On May 31,2008, President Bush was met by scores of protesters at Furman University where he was asked to give the commencement address.
The protest began weeks earlier when 225+ Furman faculty, staff, and members of the community signed a "We Object" petition stating their objections to having Bush speak at graduation. The objections included the fact that the President of the University, David Shi, did not consult the faculty, staff, and the majority of the student body before inviting Bush. He was censured by the faculty for this failure to act. Additionally, the petition included the following statement of protest:
Under ordinary circumstances it would be an honor for Furman University to be visited by the President of the United States. However, these are not ordinary circumstances. In the spirit of open and critical review that is the hallmark of both a free democracy and an institution of higher learning, we, the undersigned members of the Furman University community, object to the following actions of the Bush administration:
Claiming a linkage between Iraq and 9-11, and exaggerating the threat of weapons of mass destruction, to justify a new and morally questionable strategy of "pre-emptive warfare" against Iraq - a country that did not attack us and posed no immediate international threat;
Classifying war prisoners as "detained nonmilitary combatants" to permit their detention and interrogation in violation of our own laws and standards of human decency;
Sowing fear and using "threat levels" to side-step the Constitution and justify the erosion of individual liberties, such as challenging the Fourth Amendment (wiretapping without authorization of law) and the First Amendment (denying access to information and restricting dissent to "free speech zones");
Suppressing or ignoring empirical evidence that contradicts administration ideology, such as denying global warming and then obstructing progress on reducing greenhouse gases while favoring billions in tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies that are earning record profits;
Installing lobbyists for the coal, timber, and mining industries as the chief officials in charge of managing and protecting our public lands;
Encouraging reckless over-spending (creating the largest deficits in history), expanding the reach of national government into local affairs (No Child Left Behind), and increasing our involvement overseas at the expense of domestic concerns (reconstructing New Orleans).
We are ashamed of these actions of this administration. The war in Iraq has cost the lives of over 4000 brave and honorable U. S. military personnel, wounded more than 13,000 military personnel so severely that they are unable to return to duty, killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, will cost more than 2 trillion dollars, and has severely damaged our government's ethical and moral credibility at home and abroad. Because we love this country and the ideals it stands for, we accept our civic responsibility to speak out against these actions that violate American values.
There was a candle light peace vigil marked by 1,000 paper cranes made by Furman students and Faculty on Memorial Day.
On Saturday May 31st, 50-70 protesters gathered in front of Furman Hall on campus for a peaceful rally complete with signs, chants, drum circle, and 1,000 paper cranes.
At the stadium, 31 faculty were
granted "concientious objector" status and did not attend graduation, 50-100 faculty wore white armbands to indicate their objection to Bush's visit, and a gutsy 15 faculty members disrobed at graduation, stood, and displayed "We Object" t-shirts for the duration of Bush's speech (see Youtube Video from CNN). Other parents, students, and alumni, stood in the stands, a few turning their back on the President during the speech.
Back on the main campus mall, the protesters rallying in front of Furman Hall greeted Bush's motorcade both on his entrance and exit with chants of "No more War!" and "Troops Home Now." Additionally, a drum circle played for peace and as a symbol of protest throughout the duration of his speech. Media coverage was present and although protest numbers were inaccurately reported, the local coverage was solid. Stories can be found at: The Greenville News and other local newspapers, AP, CNN and other mainstream media.
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