With more than 50 students and members of the community carrying signs and chanting in protest, March 21 marked the first protest at the Eastman School of Music in recent memory.
“In the past, Eastman has been pretty apathetic, “senior Heather Gardner, one of the protest’s organizers, said. “I think the turnout today shows that with some effort people can really start to rally behind a cause, especially one as horrible as this war.”
Spearheaded by the Eastman Community for Social Justice, the protest has been a long time coming. When war against Iraq seemed to become more and more imminent, the group began setting up a table in the main hall of the school. By creating a visible presence in the busiest area of the school, the group was able to amass the signatures of more than 100 students who agreed to walk out of their classes in protest on the day after the war began. Friday’s protest was the culmination of that process.
“Though the war has already started, using your voice to stand up for peace is never futile. The harming of another human being is not justifiable, especially when there are other solutions,” said junior Jeff Meyer.
At about 11 a.m., there were only about 30 students present at the protest. However, as time went on, the number of students and community supporters continued to grow. At the protest’s peak, more than 60 protesters were present.
Freshman Cody Coyne, another organizer of the rally, feels that these smaller rallies are actually more important than the larger ones in Washington and San Francisco.
“These rallies allow us to reach out to individuals in the Rochester community,” Coyne said. “It allows people to see that there are others in their own community that will not stand for this unjust war.”
While not all of the students that originally agreed to walk out of their classes did, the protest was quite a success. Dialects, a student band, and DJ Jon Herbert, a senior at the Eastman School, provided musical entertainment.
As local news media looked on, students chanted “Hey Bush We Want Peace, U.S. out of the Middle East!” Others were less vocal in their protest and simply carried signs, one of which said “Money for Arts, not War.”
A flyer distributed by the group said that “it is becoming harder and harder for musicians to find work. Even people receiving their doctorates from the Eastman School are having a hard time finding jobs.” Consequently, in addition to speaking out against the needless loss of lives, the group is rallying to support money for programs that benefit the community at home, including more funding for the arts.
Though the protest went smoothly, not everyone agrees with the group. A truck adorned with four American flags and a banner that read “God Bless America, Support Our Troops” repeatedly drove by the group.
“I think that people simplify this issue into an either/or yes/no situation and it is much more complicated than that,” senior James Hirschfeld said.
“To a certain degree, one has to support both sides. Whether or not you completely agree with this war, you have to support the men and women that are selflessly giving their lives in a war that they may not necessarily agree with either.” Additionally, one woman chanted, “Hey Eastman, listen to me, where the hell is your faculty?”
A few faculty members were present and the protesters did their best to make sure that the educational process was not disturbed.
Sophomore conducting assistant Cindi Johnston-Turner pointed out that the protest was scheduled during the lunch hour as to disturb as few classes as possible. She added, however, “If disturbing the educational process for just a few hours saves someone’s life, it is well worthit . We’ve got to do something.”
The next event planned by the ECJS is tonight, March 27 at 10 p.m. in the TV Lounge of the Student Living Center, when the movie “The Hidden Wars of Desert Storm” will be shown. All are encouraged to attend.
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