On the day of the Presidential Debate, hundreds gathered on the intersection of Stanford Drive and U.S.1 in protest. They were loud, proud and for the most part, pro-Kerry – or at least, anti-Bush. The protests started at noon, and started to clear up at 8:45 p.m.
The first protest, a symbolic unemployment line, was co-organized by People for the American Way [PFAW] and the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations [AFL-CIO]. Protesters brandished big sheets of paper resembling pink slips filled with information and statistics regarding unemployment and formed an “unemployment line” from the Stanford Drive intersection down U.S.1, reaching for the Convocation Center. PFAW and AFL-CIO organized a similar protest in New York for the Republican Convention.
The protestors ranged from unemployed workers to students and sympathetic activists.
Ray Herbert, a 50-year-old former rehab therapist, made his plight known.
“I’ve been employed by the state for 25 years. It moved from Miami to 800 miles away,” said Herbert, who also said he had an option to move with his job, but it wasn’t financially beneficial. “I can’t find a job. Health insurance killed me, as I’m a diabetic and need medication.”
Herbert blames both Gov. Jeb Bush and President George W. Bush for his situation, citing government plans to privatize all state facilities.
Students and faculty were also present at the protest, though in significantly fewer numbers than the rest of the protesters.
“I speak as a rep of the 1.3 million who lost their jobs, the eight million unemployed,” Patrick Walsh, junior, said. “The minority must not be suppressed and we must give a voice to the people who need it.”
The protest was overwhelmingly pro-Kerry, and turnout was estimated at 150 to 200 people.
The second protest, organized by the Broward Anti-War Coalition, CODEPINK: Women for Peace, and the League of Pissed-Off Voters, centered on 76 makeshift coffins representing American soldiers killed in Iraq during the past month. The protest started at 6 p.m. at the Stanford-U.S.1 intersection, and eventually protesters moved the coffins to Jaycee Park, where the names of Iraq casualties were read.
Andrea Buffa, who organized the event for CODEPINK, said it was “visually incredible to see over 70 coffins; you realize the devastation of Iraq.”
Students helped with the protest.
“It’s putting into perspective how war really is,” David Marcillo, sophomore, said.
Several different groups and individuals were also present delivering their messages.
One protester was handing out censored images of flag-draped coffins being brought back to America from Iraq. Another displayed his collection of newspaper clippings from the buildup to the Iraq war. Yet another, who referred to himself as simply “I,” set up campaign posters in hopes of snagging the presidency.
Again, turnout was estimated in the hundreds.
As the coffins were being carried to Jaycee Park, Kerry supporters came out en masse and took their place, ready to greet presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry as he passed by in his motorcade.
Eddie Garza, freshman, put the rally together for the Kerry campaign.
“Awesome, totally awesome,” said Garza, who was organizing the Kerry supporters and handing out signs as the ongoing traffic on U.S.1 constantly honked in support. “I was so pleased with the amount of support for our next president. I can’t wait for Nov. 2, when Kerry is named president and we can really start turning the corner.”
During the course of the later protests, a few UM Bush supporters tried to voice their support at the rally, but eventually left. As the motorcades drew near, a right-wing group known as Protest Warrior tried to crash the rally and exchanged chants with Kerry supporters. The Protest Warriors shouted, “Four more years!” while the Democrats yelled, “No more Bush!” The Kerry supporters eventually drowned them out, despite the fact that the Protest Warriors were using a megaphone. Turnout for the Kerry rally was estimated at 250 to 300 supporters.
Police presence was heavy throughout the protests, but the protesters cooperated well with the officers, moving when directed to and even engaging in conversation with them.
Aside from individuals brandishing signs, there were no organized protests on campus, possibly due to a school policy requiring protesters to register with Public Safety two days before a planned protest.
Jay Rooney can be contacted at email@example.com.