Democrats ‘blackout’ for arrival of president

Rebecca Watts

In anticipation of the arrival of President George W. Bush, Missouri Southern’s College Democrats are planning a greeting all their own.

The group, expecting support from Kansas City and Oklahoma, are planning a “Bush Blackout.”

The College Democrats are planning a public display of their opposition to Bush. An anticipated count of no less than 30 will be dressed in black, holding signs and lined up along the planned motorcade route behind Hearnes Hall.

“We’re going to be well represented,” said Shelly Peavler, junior political science major and president of the College Democrats. “It’s not just our right to demonstrate, it’s our responsibility. Democracy isn’t working in our country right now because people aren’t voicing their opinions.”

A faculty member sees the organization as setting an example for the University and the community to recognize.

“The demonstrators aren’t focused on the president, they’re demonstrating to show the public not everyone thinks alike,” said Annetta St. Clair, professor of political science.

While a presidential visit to Southern is a significant event, it is not an unprecedented one. In 1992, George H.W. Bush visited the University during his unsuccessful bid for reelection.

During that event, members of the College Democrats actively demonstrated with signs at the flagpole in front of Webster Hall. They were removed by local law enforcement officials to an area cordoned off with crime scene tape in front of Young Gymnasium.

The fallout included involvement of the American Civil Liberties Union and lawyers. “We are aware of what happened in 1992, and we called campus security so that there won’t be any misunderstandings this time,” Peavler said.

In order to prevent a repeat of history, Peavler sent out guidelines she received from William J. Fleischaker, an attorney with Fleischaker, Williams and Powell in Joplin. There was speculation that some students were ready to throw eggs and tomatoes at the president’s car. Peavler’s response was simple.

“The DNC wouldn’t encourage the use of food projectiles,” she said. “We want open political discourse. If you want to be respected, you need to be respectable.”

She also contacted Ken Kennedy, safety and security manager, and he directed the organization to the designated public viewing area, which is planned for the east side of the fence behind Hearnes Hall. Peavler said even though some of the members of the group have tickets, she wants to be outside with her sign.

“Being in charge of this, I can’t go in with a good conscience and leave the rest of the demonstrators outside,” she said.

A member of the College Democrats, Darrell Sour, junior marketing major, said he was against the way the Republicans set the stage by appearing in Joplin.

“Besides Nixon, right before he resigned, Bush has the lowest approval rating of any modern president,” he said. “If there is an influx in demonstrators this time, then it looks bad for the party. They’re trying to get good press; that’s a given.”

In regards to the 1992 event, one faculty member who was there doubts it will happen again.

“I was surprised it happened the first time,” said Dr. Jack Spurlin, vice president for lifelong learning.

St. Clair, who was on campus during the 1992 presidential visit, agrees the law enforcement agencies won’t repeat the situation, since the lawsuit was decided in favor of the demonstrators.

“I think they’ve learned their lesson,” she said.

Dr. Joy Dworkin, professor of English, was there 14 years ago behind the police tape.

“I’m not sure where the mess up occurred,” she said. “I think it was because of the lack of clarity about what the rules really are and how they handle security.”

With the rules understood this time, Peavler led the demonstrators in constructing signs Nov. 1, preparing to show Bush “there are no safe districts.”

Grant Bricker, senior political science major and public relations representative for the College Democrats, created a sign with the words “American Foreign Policy?”

“I hate what Bush has done to this country,” he said. “At one point, America was one of the good guys.”

Some students on campus said they were upset classes were still in session even though a significant figure was on campus.

“I think that it’s a joke that we don’t get out of class to go see the president of the United States,” said Jeff Morris, freshman undecided major. “It’s just one day of school, it’s not going to kill us.”

Regardless of some negative feeling towards the president, most still think the visit is worthwhile.

“It’s always exciting to see the president of the United States, no matter who he is,” St. Clair said.