A story ran in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News about the verbal and physical attacks on the College Republicans:
Washington State University College Republicans put up a chain-link fence on campus Thursday to show their support for plans by President George Bush and Congress to construct a fence or wall along part of the Mexican border.
For Marisol Badilla, it was painful to see the fence on the Glenn Terrell Mall.
“It really hurts,” she said.
Badilla was born in Sonoyta in the Mexican state of Sonora — a border town across from Lukeville, Ariz.
The College Republicans talk about what goes on at the border, Badilla said, but they don’t really understand it. They haven’t seen it firsthand.
Badilla, a graduate student in American studies, said she saw the Mexico/U.S. border become more militarized as she grew up.
Families cross back and forth across the border all the time, she said. It’s usually not for work, but rather to visit family members on the other side.
She knew a farmer near Sonoyta whose house was on one side of the border and whose barn was on the other.
That’s how arbitrary the border is, she said.
Badilla was one of many students from various Latino and other student organizations who were on the mall Thursday to protest the College Republicans’ fence.
The two groups stood about 30 yards apart. Both had posters and handed out literature explaining their viewpoints on border security and immigration.
The College Republicans had red, white and blue signs hanging from the fence with slogans like, “We are a nation of laws,” and “There’s a legal way to immigrate.”
The other group set up an altar to celebrate Dia de los Muertos — the Day of the Dead. They had candles, sage and pictures of saints. The altar was encircled by white crosses, which represented the people who have died on the border, Badilla said.
The area where the altar was set up was markedly calmer that the College Republicans’ area. Passersby yelled obscenities at the group. Students would stop and shouting matches would break out.
The College Republican members on the mall were called racists, Nazis and fascists, said Dan Ryder, vice chairman for the Washington State College Republican Federation.
The border demonstration isn’t about race, Ryder said. It’s about national security and sovereignty.
“Every sovereign nation has a right to protect its borders,” he said.
Still, Ryder wasn’t surprised by the reaction he and his fellow Republicans received.
He said one professor called him a “white s--tbag.”
“It’s completely asinine,” Ryder said.
He said the university talks about being a place to openly exchange ideas, but in reality it’s only open to liberal ideas.
When someone has nonliberal views, they’re called a Nazi or a pervert, he said.
The College Republicans hoped to initiate an open discussion where facts could be presented, said Chris Clark.
Clark, who is black, said he doesn’t get called racist like his fellow College Republicans do. Still, he feels like people on campus are trying to stifle his freedom of speech.
The College Republicans postponed the demonstration for a day after one of their members was physically assaulted, Ryder said. The group also received threats that their posters and materials would be destroyed if they did demonstrate.
The student who was assaulted was talking on his cell phone to his father about the planned demonstration, said Scott West, assistant chief of WSU Police. After he hung up, a male standing next to him who overheard the conversation allegedly swatted him on the back of the head and said something to make the victim believe he was from a Latino student organization. He also told the victim to be careful.
“They were just a little concerned,” West said.
There were no problems during Thursday’s demonstration, he said.
Clark hoped both sides could listen to differing points of view and ask questions, he said.
The other side just keeps screaming their opinions and is unwilling to listen to any other arguments, Clark said.
As he spoke, his voice was drowned out by a woman yelling, “This sickens me.”