A scheduled walkout of Arizona State University students from classes to protest possible war in Iraq fizzled Wednesday, but Books Not Bombs advocates held heated shouting matches with a small group of students supporting President Bush and U.S. military action.
Nationwide anti-war protests were scheduled for more than 300 campuses, but the noon-hour crowd at ASU’s Cady Mall was paltry compared to a huge throng nearby at Hayden Lawn to hear a rock concert by the group Ataris.
"It is a pretty conservative campus," said student Dylan Bertolini, who skipped a class and who held an anti-war sign using an obscene word to object to war. "The campus has already been called an apathetic university."
"I don’t think there was really any impact on classes," said ASU spokeswoman Sarah Auffret. "I think it was a pretty small group."
At the mall fountain, two opposing sides on the war issue traded accusations.
"These peace protesters are nothing but fascists in disguise," said 21-year-old Oubai Shahbandar, who described himself as an "immigrant from an Arab dictatorship, Syria, and I support my president and the liberation of another murderous Arab dictatorship."
It prompted passerby student, Grant Ruby, to engage him in a lung-blasting debate.
"If you support the war so much, why don’t you go fight him," Ruby screamed at Shahbandar, who was holding a sign, "I am Arab and I support my president."
Ruby mocked the war supporters, "I love killing Americans. Yeah, let’s go to war," he said. Toppling Iraq President Saddam Hussein, he said, would unleash a bloody civil war among tribes. "It will bring more violence to Iraq," he said.
To neutralize those supporting a war, a half-dozen Books Not Bombs activists took up positions among that group and unloosed a prolong chant, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Bush’s war has got to go!"
Law student Steve Little held a sign saying war was justified because it has brought an end to Nazi, Communist and totalitarian regimes. Angered by seeing so many "anti-American sentiments," he said, "I felt that the other voice should be heard as well on campus."