Hundreds gather on campus to protest or support Cheney's BYU visit
Posted: 12:12 PM- PROVO - Hundreds of students Wednesday sat in protest and support of Brigham Young University's decision to invite Vice President Dick Cheney to deliver the school's commencement address.
More than 200 students attended the College Democrats' protest, a sit-in next to the campus library with no shouting allowed.
"As much as I'm opposed to Cheney and enjoy demonstrating against his politics, this is a really good chance to show the political diversity of BYU," said Philip Erickson, a sophomore studying international relations.
But not everyone at the protest was a Democrat. Heather Marsh, a freshman studying neuroscience, held a sign stating, "Republican against Cheney."
"He made some horribly misleading arguments linking Iraq to attacks on 9/11," she said. "We are Mormons and are subject to kings, rulers and magistrates, but we're also upholding the right of popular sovereignty."
In response to critics who say Cheney doesn't represent the values of BYU, a private school owned by the LDS church, Cali Nicoll simply says, "It's what politicians do."
She joined about 75 students on the opposite side of the school library at a rally organized by the College Republicans supporting BYU and Cheney.
"To have such an influential leader come to campus is at worst inconsequential and at best a benefit to the university," said McKay Young, a junior studying psychology who is politically independent.
Nicoll says the office of the vice president should be respected.
"It's a great honor to have him even consider coming, let alone speaking," she said.
The dueling events grew from online petition drives initiated by both groups.
A petition opposing Cheney's visit launched last week at http://cheneyspeech.blogspot.com" Target="_BLANK">http://cheneyspeech.blogspot.com. BYU alumni drafted the petition, and it has garnered support from some students, faculty and staff.
Then this week, College Republicans created a petition to support Cheney and BYU administrators. Found at http://www.isupportBYU.com" Target="_BLANK">http://www.isupportBYU.com, it is described as "powerful declaration of support for the current BYU administration and board of trustees, including their decision to invite the vice president of the United States to speak at Spring commencement ceremonies."
BYU has said it has no plan to renege its invitation to the vice president to speak on April 26.
Administrators are still considering whether to allow a protest on campus the day of his visit.