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A Reporter Asks: Why Are You Here?

A Reporter Asks: Why Are You Here? image A Reporter Asks: Why Are You Here? image
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ANN ARBOR-On Thursday, March 13th, a crowd of approximately 300 gathered on the University of Michigan Diag for a "Pledge of Resistance" rally. The purpose of the rally was to protest Congressman Carl Pursell's decision to vote for contra aid and to speak out against the escalating conflict in Central America in general.

The one hour rally was followed by a three mile march which culminated in a symbolic planting of crosses at Pursell's office. The Congressman's District Coordinator Cynthia Hudgins carried on a lengthy and often heated discussion with protestors who were angry that Pursell himself was not there to defend his position on contra aid.

A member of Agenda's staff carried a tape recorder and asked people two questions: Why are you here? and How do you think this rally is going?

Rally at Diag

Michael Faigen, student: "I'm here to oppose the $100 million aid the Reagan Administration is proposing. I think if the aid is sent to the contras, it will result in the opposite effect. The administration is claiming that the aid will lead to negotiations with the Sandinistas, but if we keep supporting the contra, as though we will support them forever, the contras won't have the initiative to negotiate. It looks as though we're looking to overthrow the Sandinista government by military force. And suppose the $100 million is not enough? What happens next year? This just seems endless. I just don't see where this policy is leading us."

Bill Taylor, President of College Republicans: "I'm here to show my support for the freedom fighters in Nicaragua in their struggle for democracy in their nation and our president, and oppose the communist regime that's repressing them. We're a real liberal campus here, so it's pretty hard to get a lot of support. But I think a lot of people show silent support for the Reagan Administration policy. They just have better things to do than come out and protest on the Diag. So the right wing people, I think there's a silent majority that you know, does support the Reagan Administration policies. Maybe not on this campus, but at least in this state and Carl Pursell's district, definitely."

Andrew McQuag, student: "Well, I didn't know this was going on to tell you the truth. I was just coming from lunch, but I'm staying here because I'm really concerned about what's going on and I object to the aid to the contras. I've known about it for a long time and I'm glad that finally it's becoming common knowledge, which I think is really good."

John McGowen, salesman from Birmingham: "I work for MacMillan Publishing Company and I sell textbooks and I just happened to be walking by. I saw this demonstration going on and I wanted to listen to what was happening. I think this is an important issue and that I must confess my own ignorance to a lot of what's happening here. I'm curious. I want to hear more facts about what the contras are doing in Nicaragua. I don't know if I feel strongly one way or another quite frankly and it's something I think maybe I should learn more about."

Tom Fredo, student: "I agree with a lot of what they say, especially how we don't support Nicaragua and then we turn around and support South Africa and their policies, which are totally racist. I can't really agree with supporting the contras because they're ex-national guardsmen and stuff like that. It makes no sense supporting thugs that go around killing and pillaging villages. At the same time, how can you support governments like El Salvador, where obviously the people don't really support the government and the rebel's control l/3 of the territory."

Rebecca Morris, student: "I think it's important to show solidarity with the people who are protesting contra aid, because it's a really important issue. We should all be out here protesting, doing more than protesting, doing anything we can."

Anonymous man refused to give his name because "it can have serious repercussions.": "Why, am I here? Because I didn't realize what's going on, you know. I'm not for killing anyone. I'm black. I thought it was just me, my folks, but it always seems fishy in my mind. How can we support aid the contras and not support South Africans?"

On the march

Siri Striar, student: "I'm here to protest the Reagan Administration's policies in Central America and Carl Pursell's complicity. The contras have no place in terms of what a democratic country's supposed to support. This march is just great. There must be several hundred people marching right now and a lot of people made up their mind as they were standing on the Diag listening to the speakers. I think we have a variety of people here with a variety of opinions, but I think we're very much united in terms of our solidarity right now. We have tremendous solidarity working against the Reagan Administration's policies and Carl Pursell's support of those policies."

Judy Bonnel Wenzel, mother walking with her son: "I'm against sending arms really, to anywhere but especially to the contras because, you know all of the torture and the fact that they're trying to overthrow a country that's decided for itself what to and who they want to govern. I take Spanish and the more I've taken Spanish, the more I've learned about what's really wrong in Latin America. The march is going fine. There are lots of people. I was one of the 49 people arrested the last time, about I think, September-October and I think there are more people today, although there were a lot of people there who were supporting us. The last time we didn't march all the way from the Diag. There's more being done today I think, that people can take part in. Actually, nothing bad happened to me when I was arrested before because Pursell didn't want any publicity. So what happened was they decided they'd taken us to the wrong police station and they never took us to court or anything, so I think that Pursell's just trying to hide and I think the more times that people do this, the more the voters will be aware how he's really voting."

Attention Ann Arbor 118: Agenda wants to write a story about Civil Disobedience and needs to hear from you. Please write a page, (type-written double spaced, or on a 3 1/2 inch diskette along with a print-out) about your experience. Include the reason why you were arrested, how you were treated by the police and any observations you think relevant. (Would you do it again? Do you have advice for people considering CD?) Send your statement to: Agenda, 1209 Birk, Ann Arbor, MI 48103: ATTN: CD.