The demonstrators’ tones were conversational, and their signs were succinct and powerful. Overall, both College Democrat- and College Republican-sponsored protests were civil and respectable. Some outsiders could say we BYU students have a lot to learn about “effective” protesting.
We readily admit Boston Red Sox World Series victories occur more frequently than do political demonstrations at BYU. Comparatively speaking, we’re inexperienced with the whole concept of protests, and the demonstrators’ actions heavily reflected this unfamiliarity with proper protocol.
Instead of incessant chanting, both groups conversed peaceably with bystanders; instead of burning effigies, they sat or stood with dignity; instead of throwing bricks or rocks, one group provided brownies and lemonade (although this is more likely a construct of the Utah culture).
We’ve received reports that some bystanders felt mistreated by certain protestors, but from our own observations, these individual incidents proved to be the exception, not the norm. Even when anti-Cheney protesters crossed campus to intermingle at the pro-Cheney party, tempers never flared. Compare these incidents with another protest that happened Tuesday night, and the case could be made we BYU students don’t know the first thing about real protesting.
Earlier this week, a dozen student protesters attempted to make a citizen’s arrest on White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove after a speaking engagement at American University in Washington, D.C. They blocked his car and campus police had to forcibly remove them from the scene. According to reports, a Secret Service spokeswoman said the students pelted the car Rove was in with unidentified objects, but campus spokespeople and the protesters deny objects were thrown.
Those protesters attracted attention to their cause, but not in a beneficial way. People needn’t shout to be heard; common dignity and decency needn’t be sacrificed to draw attention to a cause; and zeal needn’t consume reason for the sake of debate.
Some may call the protests bland and restrained. They may argue fear of administrative reprimand tempered the students’ conduct. But we believe their actions were a direct by-product of their character. If the incident at American University is the proper way to protests, let’s hope BYU students enjoy being unconventional.