Student groups protest democratic position
Students gathered outside Washington Hall to protest the position of vice presidential candidate Senator Joseph Lieberman (D.-Conn.) and the Democratic Party on abortion and capital punishment Tuesday. Among the groups represented were Right to Life, the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA) and the United Muslim Association.
"We wanted to make sure the South Bend community knew … that his record on faith and values was not going to reflect what he was going to say, especially about abortion," said Mandy Reimer, co-president of Notre Dame's Right to Life group. "We knew that he wasn't going to address that issue."
Lieberman did not speak directly on abortion during the course of his speech, despite calls from the balcony demanding that he address the topic.
"What about abortion?" asked seminary candidate Steve Sanchez, who said that Lieberman's voting record supported a "culture of death."
Lieberman did not respond directly to Sanchez's question, stating instead that he would later address the ways in which people of different religious beliefs could work to find common moral ground.
"You made your point and I respect it," said Lieberman in response to Sanchez's repeated questions. "I ask only that you respect my right to continue to speak as I came here to do."
Sanchez declined to comment Tuesday.
Reimer said that Sanchez was not affiliated with Right to Life, which sought to promote a thoughtful, peaceful protest.
"We wish that would not have happened," she said, explaining that the group hoped to dispel popular beliefs that pro-life groups operate in a fanatical manner. "That's what the media wants and they'd concentrate on it if they got it."
Instead, representatives of Right to Life stood in a line outside holding signs bearing statistics on Lieberman's voting record and handed out literature which stated that Lieberman had supported abortion in 66 of 67 votes during his 12 years in the Senate. The Senator's record includes five votes against banning the partial-birth abortion and others for tax-funded abortion on demand and against parental notification, according to National Right to Life.
"[Lieberman] is trying to secure the Catholic vote," said Right to Life member Shelia Payne. "We just want Catholics to know what they're getting into if they vote for him."
Right to Life member Laura Giannuzzi emphasized the University's obligation as a Catholic institution to oppose Lieberman.
"As a Catholic university, we have to speak out against the partial-birth abortion," she said. "It's one of the great evils of our time and we have to do something about it."
The group was successful, said Reimer, who noted that the protest's primary goal was to promote awareness.
"A lot of people were surprised because Lieberman has claimed to be pro-life," she said. "It changed some people's minds."
Also present were PSA members who chose to focus on the death penalty to emphasize the major parties' failure to address a number of moral issues in modern America.
"We're not protesting Lieberman. We're protesting the Democratic party and its policies," said PSA member Paul Graham. "We're focusing on the death penalty, how it's racist and how it's wrong."
PSA members carried signs comparing the prison population of 1970, which included 200,000 of the nation's 200 million citizens, to the 1999 numbers of 1.25 million and 275 million. Members also said that an African-American man who kills a white man is 11 times more likely to receive the death penalty than while man who murders a black man. Member Aaron Kreider noted that the Clinton administration has increased the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty from two to 60 and that the U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.
The PSA has similar concerns about the Republican ticket.
The two-party system causes candidates to compromise and adopt less extreme positions to win the votes of critical swing voters and battle-ground states, explained PSA member Joe Smith.
"The focus on the issues has been eliminated because they're working so hard to win," he said. "It's actually ridiculous."
Krider said that the protest succeeded in bringing the group's concerns to the attention of those attending the speech, though the presence of multiple groups with differing agendas resulted in a disjointed event.
"[We wanted] a coherency of a message," said Kreider. "Ideally, the protesters would have been more focused."
Still, Krieder said that the PSA succeeded in getting its message out because a number of lecture attendees were surprised and informed by the PSA's information.
All News Stories for Wednesday, October 25, 2000