Camping For Peace
A handful of CSUMB students camp out against the war.
Thursday, April 3, 2003
Three CSUMB students are sitting around the university''s flagpole while the sounds of a Beatles song (played on an original LP) drifts lazily from a nearby record player. Taj Rozier, dressed in a multicolored flowing skirt, lifts a drum from a pile of sleeping bags and absentmindedly thumps the rhythm to "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." A sign, handwritten with markers, indicates that she is part of Camping 4 Peace, a group of activists dedicated to raising "intelligent and informed discussion" about the war in Iraq within the CSUMB community.
The campaign to camp out on the university''s lawn in a peaceful demonstration against the war began Sunday, March 23, and will, the campers say, continue until the war ends.
"We''re not thinking this is going to stop the war. We''re just doing what we can do without sacrificing our lives," says freshman Nick Strubbe, who is responsible for getting Camping 4 Peace under way. "It''s a simple thing; a way to get our message out."
Strubbe shifts his bare feet between chalk drawings of peace symbols and random designs covering the cement that surrounds the flagpole, and says he got the idea for the campus demonstration after participating in protests in Buffalo, New York over spring break. He has since gathered six students who are dedicated to spending their nights out on the trimmed lawn. During the day, the activists periodically stop by the flagpole "campsite," but continue to attend classes and go about their daily routine.
Strubbe said the camping group has grown since last Sunday, but not by much. The campers have been criticized by some fellow students as being unpatriotic.
"We''re not anti-American," Strubbe says. "The best way to support troops is to bring them home."
Since they''ve set up camp, 30 or so people, including teachers, students and police, have stopped by to talk and find out what''s up. When asked how long Camping 4 Peace would last, Strubbe said, "the idea was until the war was over, but at a certain point..." he trails off, looking off in the distance. "As long as it takes," he resumes. "As long as people come by."
Reactions to the demonstrators have been varied. "I think they have good intentions," said Stacey Hendrix, an administrative assistant for the office of the provost, "but I don''t think they know what''s going on."
"Maybe they don''t know George isn''t in this building," joked Hendrix''s coworker Barbara Richardson.
Charea Batiste, a senior, expressed frustration at the protesters'' silence.
"They should let people know what they''re trying to achieve," she said. "I''m against the war, but I''m not going to go sit against a tree. There has to be some kind of purpose."
Richardson replies that the activists feel no obligation to verbalize their reasons for protesting. She compared the activists'' demonstration to her own personal form of activism of fasting and praying. "You don''t have to share your purpose unless someone asks," she says.
In the middle of the day the site under the flagpole is eerily empty. Tarps, blankets and pillows are strewn about like someone forgot to clean up after a slumber party. Khi-min Jung, a senior, walks toward the vacant sleeping bags and I ask him what he thinks of this group that has been camping for peace. "That''s what they''re doing?" he asks.
The flags whipping in the wind send a barrage of violent bangs against the staff and he raises his eyebrows and looks up.
"Well, it''s good they''re against the war and protesting in their own way, but a lot of people are confused about their motive." When asked why he hasn''t taken time to talk to the activists, Jung smiles and confesses it feels to him like "talking to a homeless person."
"I''m against the war too," he says. "But I like my bed."