Freedom to speak 

At IUPUI's Democracy Plaza

At IUPUI’s Democracy Plaza

On a rainy Nov. 11, members of the IUPUI community gathered beneath the covered passageway near University Campus, the student union building. A group of students called to end the war in Iraq, expressing their support for the troops and that they be returned home.
Erich Anderson adds his opinion to the Democracy Plaza chalkboard on IUPUI’s campus.

Just feet away, a chalkboard proclaimed that all voices and opinions are equally important and must be given space to be expressed. “The rules and regulations for the Democracy Plaza are designed to provide an opportunity for the community to express opinions on subjects affecting them as democratic citizens and members of the campus community in an atmosphere of fair play and exchange of ideas.”

Nine days after the national election, people gathered here on their way to class, home or work. Voices could be heard debating political views while the scratching of colored chalk added images and words to the public space. Statements such as “Joy to the USA,” “W is not my president!” “I ‘heart’ Cheney” and “History Repeats,” the latter chalked by Erich Anderson, English education student and member of The Fuglees, filled the board and spilled over onto the concrete pillars.

On reflecting about recent events and his life, Anderson said, “My question is now, how can I teach kids to tell the truth?”

Nearby, a group of four people stood and debated opinions expressed in the plaza, their voices bouncing off the hard surfaces. “Whether you voted for Bush or Kerry ... it’s time to realize that the elections are over and it’s been decided. If you want to get out, go to Canada!” “I blame the first president for not finishing the job.” “But where’s Osama?”

Anti-war protestors interacted with people walking by. Kelley Canaday carried a sign reading, “Support our troops. Bring them home!” Canaday said she supports the troops because she believes they were lied to. “I think when people signed up they thought they signed up for the purpose of defending our nation,” Canaday said. “The U.S. government turned the armed forces into a tool of aggression instead of defense. This puts the troops in a difficult situation. War is something you can never let go of. [The soldiers] are good people and I can’t blame them for the position the government put them in.”

Adam McMickle also believes it is important to have space to express personal opinions. But the graffiti of body outlines recently spray painted on the bricks in front of the plaza upset him. “Honestly, I took offense to it,” said McMickle, who was raised in a military family. “I don’t think it’s possible to reunite the country, now that moral issues are important.” McMickle agreed that the troops should return, but only when their job is done, allowing for elected leadership to take control of Iraq.

Jack McKivigan, a professor at IUPUI, said he believes the body outlining is a red herring. “It’s a non issue,” he said. “I don’t condone the action but I see it in perspective.”

The Sagamore, IUPUI’s newspaper, quoted Public Information Officer Bill Abston stating, “We’ve had graffiti before but not of this political nature — nothing in response to Iraq.”

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