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Obies Protest Inauguration

by Nina Lalli

Election day 2000 was a roller-coaster ride for all Americans, regardless of which candidate they favored. Oberlin students watched the drama unravel. In the end, they accepted what most Obies viewed as a nightmare-come-true: George W. Bush was our new president.

A group of nine Oberlin students descended on Washington together during Winter Term with signs bearing statements such as: "Out of my Uterus" and "Education, not Incarceration."

The group took to the scene of the inauguration on Jan. 20 to voice their disdain for the new president, and, above all, to voice a general dissatisfaction to the manner in the election was won. "Personally, I was protesting the illegitimacy of the presidency and the fact that George Bush is a fucking idiot," first-year Alex Asher said.

The Obies joined thousands of other protestors, whose concerns included a variety of issues such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Ashcroft objectors, Environmentalists, National Organization for Women supporters, anti-WTO groups and the Black Panthers.

One of these Oberlin protestors was first-year Jessie Perlik, who felt that these groups were unified, though their reasons for being there varied. "If Bush has done anything, he has unified the left," she said.

This sentiment was felt also by Noah Hoskins, also a first-year, who protested at the inauguration with a few friends. He predicted a "backlash from the American people," comparing his generation of protestors with that of his parents, saying: "I'm going to be bitter about the election of 2000 for the rest of my life, just like my parents are about Nixon." He added that there were an estimated 2,000 protestors just in the group he stood in - the largest inaugural protest since Nixon's reelection in 1972.

The number of Green party members present struck senior Brinda Adhikari, since many Gore supporters count Nader among the reasons for Gore's defeat. "It gives the ultra-left a chance to get heard. If Gore had won, the numbers would have been different." Adhikari felt a new bond with Nader supporters, and said, "A few months ago, I would have spat in the face of a Nader supporter."

Adhikari also likened the protest to the heyday of political protests. She said, "It's just like Vietnam - we're not part of a generation that gets to see this kind of mobilizing of young and old people alike."

Oberlin protestors came away from the inauguration with a feeling that they had made an impact with their presence. The mood among Republicans was seen as decidedly subdued. Perlik said that the Republicans present were "pissed off" because of the number of protestors.

Adhikari imagined that part of the lack of celebratory energy might be due to the fact that D.C. is highly Democratic. "In their own zones, they were probably more exuberant," she said.

Perlik said that the protest was definitely a positive experience. "It was eye-opening and memorable. It left me more hopeful, to have seen so many people out there and involved." She hopes that the presence of protestors will make Bush question what he is doing.

In response to the suggestion that such a protest does not accomplish anything, Perlik said, "you're not going to accomplish anything staying in your bubble at Oberlin."

Many Oberlin students take this attitude for granted, but there is - however slight - an opposing mindset. When asked what he thought about Oberlin students protesting at the inauguration, First-year David Lightfoot, a native of George "Dub-ya's" home-state, said, "How much gas did those people waste? One, they were being anti-patriotic. Two, if they support Gore, most likely they are environmentalists so they were being hypocrites by wasting that fuel. Three, did they actually think they were doing a lick of good?"

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Copyright © 2001, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 129, Number 13, February, 2001

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