Less than a hundred feet from the entrance to Jadwin Gymnasium, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke this afternoon, students and community members rallied in protest of the Bush administration's policies at home and abroad.
Earlier in the day, about 160 people attended a rally in Palmer Square that included remarks by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), a former plasma physicist whose district includes the University, and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.).
Also speaking at the rally was Sue Niederer, who lost her son in Iraq last February. "I cannot bring back my son," she told the crowd. "But what I can do is save other parents from opening the door some day and seeing two military idiots, untrained in how to talk to parents, saying, 'Uh, sorry.' Well, sorry doesn't cut it."
As more than 3,000 students, faculty and alumni gathered in Jadwin to hear Rice, the keynote speaker at the Wilson School's 75th anniversary kickoff, some of their peers and colleagues chose instead to voice their opposition.
Two students stood on the corner of Washington Road and Prospect Avenue, one in a black hood meant to recall the Abu Ghraib prison tortures, holding signs that read "Honk if you're against torture." Others distributed pamphlets and ribbons to those entering the gymnasium, or burned their tickets in protest.
The Palmer Square event was organized by a local group called Coalition for Peace Action (CPA), which calls for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. After the rally, protesters marched down Washington Street to Jadwin and stood outside holding posters and chanting slogans including "Make levees not war" and "Bring her out here."
"Condoleezza Rice represents a failed policy. She is not worthy of the position she represents — a notable and honorable position. She has told untruths and been rewarded for it," CPA chair Irene Goldman said, adding that the protest was intended to demonstrate "that we're awake, angry and showing our opinion to the administration."
Among those in the audience was Deb Huber, who said she has been holding a vigil for peace since two weeks after Sept. 11, 2001. Draped in an American flag on which the stars were replaced with white corporate logos, Huber carried a sign protesting the war that was a "souvenir" of last week's massive antiwar rally in Washington, D.C.
"We're here to give a good New Jersey welcome to Condi to say we disagree with everything she does," she said.
Speaking at the rally, Holt outlined his plan for withdrawing troops from Iraq on October 16th, a day after Iraqis will vote on their constitution. "Whatever the outcome of that vote," said Holt, "it should be the signal — the moment — of our withdrawal."
Pallone also condemned the Bush administration, saying, "The bottom line is that this war was based on lies ... on false principles."
Niederer, who delivered an impassioned speech as a mother who lost her child in the war, explained in an interview how she had been handcuffed and arrested at a protest last year while wearing her son's hat and a shirt that reads "President Bush: You Killed My Son."
Niederer said that her biggest contention is "not with the military; it's with recruiters, and their deceitfulness — their salesmanship."
Asked what question she would want to ask Rice, Niederer said, "What's the noble cause?"
Meanwhile, students mobilized to protest the event on campus. "It's intolerable to have a situation where a high public official speaks and there is no show of concern. The silence is worse than any inefficiency of a protest," said Elliot Ratzman GS, a co-organizer of a group of students that distributed red ribbons and pamphlets to audience members as they entered Jadwin. Ratzman said that his coalition was primarily concerned with the Bush administration's "broken promises to Africa" on three fronts: humanitarian aid, the Darfur genocide and AIDS.
"Our focus is to unite people behind what the Bush administration promised," said Ratzman. His one question to Rice would be, "How can I convince your administration to live up to the moral foreign policy of the rhetoric of Bush's second inaugural?"
Yet another contingent of about 80 protesters, who assembled on the other side of a barricade in front of Jadwin, chanted, "This is what democracy looks like!" and "No more lies!"
For them, the primary motivation was not the war in Iraq or the situation in Africa but the Wilson School's decision to invite Rice to speak. One graduate student, Bright Limm, said that he was "embarrassed by Princeton University's inviting her and touting her."
Two people chose to show their opposition by burning their tickets. Danilo Mandic '07 said that Rice was the latest in a string of Wilson School speakers who represented a narrow spectrum of opinion.
"Besides our obvious problem with Condoleezza Rice and her policies, we want to ask why the speakers that the University brings are so one-sided," Mandic said, adding he was particularly offended by Wilson School Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter '80's comments that she could not imagine a better person to launch the 75th anniversary celebrations.
Stephanie Wavle, who works in the library, brought her charred stub back after burning it in front of the door. "Can you believe they wouldn't let me in with this?" she asked, grinning.