Free speech area utilized

Nov. 9, standing alone under overcast skies with the sun moving west, Sue McQueen, a woman in her 50s, stood at the edge of the Freedom of Speech Area before the Republican Party Debate at Oakland University.

Demonstrations outside the debate were expected, said Oakland University Police Chief Samuel Lucido.   Occupy Oakland University and the campaign representatives for Texas Representative and GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul had planned rallies.

McQueen said she has been out of work for two years after her body art business closed following the 2008 economic recession.  She now studies graphic design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Mcqueen came to OU for the Ron Paul rally, holding a large banner supporting the candidate’s 2012 campaign.

“I’ve been here since 2:00, and it’s just me,” McQueen said.

“It’s a shame I’m the only one out here.  It says a lot about today’s youth.”

John and Pauline Holeton, also Paul supporters, agreed, lamenting what they called “apathetic youth.”

The couple said it won’t be young people to lead the charge against corrupt government.

“No, it’s gonna be us — the 50-to-60-year-olds,” Pauline said, standing outside the O’rena where hundreds of students volunteered to assist the eight Republican candidates campaigns.

Shortly after, Doresha Christopher, a 21-year-old art history and English major, approached the street that divided the free-speech area and the O’rena where the GOP debate was held.

Christopher said she was curious about the demonstrations that may occur because of the debate.

“Thomas Jerrerson, one of our founding fathers, said there should be a revolution every 20-or-so years,”  Chrisopher said, her hand close to her heart.

“There is definitely a disconnect between politicians and people, and we need a revolution,” she added.

The 5:00 p.m. Ron Paul rally began at 6:30.  Around that time, demonstrators began to fill the free-speech zone located behind Kresge Library.

Police allowed supporters of Representative Paul and President Barack Obama to stand at the side-walk on Pioneer Drive, which separates the Freedom of Speech Area and the debate, while others, were bluntly denied.  City, state and campus police blocked demonstrators unaffiliated with political candidates from leaving the free-speech zone.

“It’s a joke,” said Lindsay Stone, a 32-year-old participant in Occupy Ann Arbor, an extension of the Occupy Wall Street protest against social inequality.

Stone and fellow Occupy Ann Arbor supporters, Chelle Johnson and Maggie Burant, along with Occupy OU supporter Alex Dulgerian and several others led a march outside the cordoned area behind Kresge.

“Are we going to take this?”  Stone shouted.

“No,” the rest returned in resonance.

Swiftly, though, police stepped forward with hands extended and pointed the group back to where they came under threat of arrest.

Stone, Johnson and Burant prepared for challenging the limitations of free speech.  Each wrote lawyers’ phone numbers on their bodies in the event that they were arrested.

“Cops take everything off of your person,” Johnson said, “So we wrote the numbers on our persons.”

“It’s more extreme than I thought,” Dulgerian, a senior OU history major, said of the Freedom of Speech Area.

“Freedom works and Ron Paul Supporters can just stroll right through,” he added

Dulgerian said it was troubling that political action committees are granted such privileges and “an enormous platform, while we have to work through the corporate conglomerate media.”

“It’s not right,” Stone said.

Around 7:30 p.m., demonstrators, unwilling to accept exclusionary policing, moved to the lawn beyond the fenced-in free-speech area.

Numbering near 140, demonstrators refused to budge.

Twenty Michigan State Police officers, equipped with body armor and wooden batons, promptly formed a line on the sidewalk before Pioneer Drive.  Tear gas grenades were cuffed to the belts of several officers.  Two officers played small games with German shepherds.

On the law outside the Freedom of Speech Area, devotees of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness chanted the Hare Krishna mantra, dancing.

Kelly Shaw, an OU psychology major, who stood outside the GOP debate to express anger toward what she called “GOP bigotry” of gay rights, scoffed at the idea of free speech being restricted.  Shaw said the security measures taken were understandable, though.

“I would ask the candidates why they’re ruining the country,” Shaw said.

“If they picked up and read any holy book,” she said, they would realize they’re “perverting religions.”

Shaw said she would like to see more moderate Republicans and Democrats more inline with the people they represent.

A recent Gallup poll metered congressional approval at 13 percent.

Clare, a mother of two representing women’s reproductive rights, said that despite promises to focus on jobs and the economy — the theme of the Nov. 9 debate — the issues they have addressed have been more in line with conservative “moral” issues like restraining gay marriage and eroding women’s rights to reproductive services.  Clare asked that her surname to be withheld.

“They’ve just expressed rancor toward their bases,” Clare said.

“The debate is just trying to prove that they can divide people to get into office.”

Another Gallup poll found an 81 percent disapproval of federal governance.

“The 2012 election is simple,” said George Justice Moor, the Democratic Precinct Delegate of Independence Township, “and it’s everything these jokers are against:  jobs, consumer protection, mortgages, student loans — you name it.”

Moor, holding a sign that read “tax the rich,” said he came to express the issue of an economy “that is without oxygen.”

“All they care about is replacing Dr. Obama, the Constitutional law doctor, with Herman Cain, the local pizza guy,” Moor said.

Moor said the issues of inequality are being overlooked by the Republican party.

The delegate was cautioned by fellow Democrats to be cautious in siding with Occupy Wall Street.

“I immediately went on record saying that I whole-heartedly support the Occupy Wall

Movement,” he said.

“I went down to (Occupy Detroit) and thanked demonstrators for the job they’re doing in making important issues popular.”

“We’re dooming our young people to poverty,” Moor said, “and I think Occupy Wall Street is helping bring those things to light.