Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ayers Visit Draws Protest and Counter-Protest

Around 6:30pm Thursday night, a smattering of signs were held by both those protesting the visit of speaker Bill Ayers and those protesting such protest. Although generally benign, the scene was tense: The anti- as well as the pro-Ayers crowds occupied the same short stretch of sidewalk in front Millersville University’s Student Memorial Center.

The protests, on either end, remained calm and civil, and Ayers’ speech proceeded without notable interruption.

A sense of principled urgency was projected by protesters on either side of the spectrum. For those opposing Ayers’ visit, this was a matter of integrity for the University. Mike, whose sign read, “next year let’s invite Osama,” explained his position: “I disagree with the college that I graduated from hosting a former terrorist as a keynote speaker for something they could have found someone else to do.”

For those who supported Millersville’s hosting of Ayers, this was a matter of first amendment rights. Matt, whose sign read, “MU = Education not IGNORANCE,” explained what brought him out: “I’m out here to support freedom of speech, I’m here to support Bill Ayers. I’m not here to support anything he has done in his past, but I think we need to move on and recognize him for the Urban Education developments that he has made….”