By Arek Sarkissian II
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday April 3, 2003
Student protesters stage demonstration to illustrate their take on realities of war
A group staged a mass murder of sorts in the Student Union Memorial Center at noon yesterday, with at least 10 drenching themselves in a blood-like liquid and playing dead to demonstrate their opposition to the war.
Students in the group, named UA Peace Refuge, said the presentation, which was held among hundreds of students during the lunch hour, was to give students a first-hand account of who the group believes is the real suspect in the conflict.
More than 20 students and staff met on the UA Mall, with some wearing shirts defining what characters they were to play, including Iraqi citizens, U.S. soldiers and others.
After running into the union's food court, those carrying cornstarch, red dye and water solution in sandwich bags poured the concoction over themselves and fell to the ground as if they were dead. Once everyone was down, a speaker began to inform the packed area why they were there.
During his speech, he screamed at the crowd and pointing at some, including two people dressed in military uniform. In the background, a boom-box played sounds of explosions.
"This is what war is. We just want to let students know this isn't the heroic push that they're trying to portray," said Shawn Nock, a UA Peace Refuge member who participated in the event, which was later dubbed a "die-in."
Some of those who witnessed yesterday's presentation yelled at the protesters; some suggested they move to Iraq, and others pleaded to let them finish their lunches.
"This is ridiculous," said Chris Lutter, a second year MBA student. "How would they feel if their family was killed in an attack by a terrorist? You've got to support the president of your country no matter what. This is like burning the flag," he said.
Lindsey Patton, a communication senior, shook her head as the speaker in the presentation spoke.
"We have the right to fight back here," she said. "Just what would happen if we didn't?"
One person angered by the die-in presentation poured his soda on a student playing dead. The student, undeclared freshman Arthur Richards, shuddered as the caramel-colored liquid flushed the red dye from his neck.
"All I could do was lay there. It's just another sign of the ignorance on this campus," he said, wiping the soda from his neck after the event.
Susan Ellis, a political science junior, said the die-in was legitimate because it demonstrated the freedoms enforced by the Constitution.
"I'm for it if it's well handled," Ellis said. "After all this is freedom of speech, just as long as things are handled properly."
Protesters wearing shirts labeled with CNN or Fox News networks cleaned the majority of the starchy mess.
Although four UA police officers showed up outside the food court, it was Dean of Students Melissa Vito who asked the protesters to leave. She later addressed them outside.
"I want to thank you for leaving, but you were blocking the area for people to walk through," Vito said to the protesters.
Vito later said the protests were expected during the war, as they are happening at other universities across the country.
"This is expected on a college campus; students are going to want to express their views, but the Mall is just more of an open area for them to do so," Vito said.
Nock, who along with the two other students in the March 5 rally were ordered by a Pima County Justice Court Judge to go through the Dean of Students' diversion program, said he is still seeking acceptance into the program. When asked whether he felt yesterday's event might hurt his chances, he expressed remorse for the amount of work he said the office already has to endure.
"I just want to hug Veda Kowalski (associate dean of students)," he said.
Charges against the employee were dismissed.
Vito said none of yesterday's protesters would face any sanctions for possibly violating the Student Code of Conduct during the die-in. She could not comment on whether yesterday's event would affect Nock's chances of being accepted into the disciplinary program.
UA Peace Refuge has also been conducting a 24-hour protest on the fourth floor of the Main Library for about a week to express its view against the ongoing conflict in Iraq.
Some at yesterday's event were also involved in a March 5 rally that ended with Nock, two other students and an employee locking themselves to a railing in the lobby of the Administration building.