Protesters silently crash student union opening [VIDEO]

Photo by Wesley Beights, Staff Photographer

Photo by Wesley Beights, Staff Photographer

by Jaclyn Palumbo

As the sun began to set on San Diego State Friday night, students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered on the steps of the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union to celebrate the building’s grand opening.

As the crowd slowly found seats and members of the media adjusted their cameras, a group of more than 40 protesters gathered in front of Manchester Hall.

Some held signs with slogans such as “no fees” and “take back education” while others passed out red tape, which the protesters wore over their mouths to show their silence.

The protesters have become a regular presence on campus following the Feb. 28 Campus Fee Advisory Committee meeting where a $200 fee increase was recommended to university president Elliot Hirshman.

After a week of fruitless negotiations with the SDSU administration the protesters chose to make an appearance at the opening ceremony to demonstrate their resolve.

Bo Elder, one of the protest organizers, said one of the goals of the protest is to send a peaceful message to the administration that they cannot ignore the student body.

“It really shows the tremendous organizing ability of the students,” Elder said.

For the past week the protesters have been pushing for a meeting with SDSU President Elliot Hirshman, but attempts to organize the meeting have for the most part fallen through.

Despite the large protester presence, an increase in security wasn’t needed, according to the SDSU Police Department.

“There wasn’t necessarily a step up in security because of the protesters,” SDSUPD Captain Joshua Mays said. “With campus events that have a lot of people and distinguished guests we always have a police presence.”

There have been some rumors circulating social media that Hirshman was avoiding a direct confrontation with the protesters because he had supposedly received death threats because of the fee increase.

Elder says he has seen the rumors but thinks it is an attempt by the university to make the protests seem illegitimate.

“We’re not here to attack him,” Elder said. “we just want to talk and it’s sad if he thinks we are dangerous.”

Protesters arrived at approximately 4 p.m., 30 minutes before the ceremony began.

“It is not against the law to protest in California,” SDSUPD Officer David Knight said. “Somebody for the right reasons who wants to have their word out there is not a crime. But when obvious crimes are committed, that is an issue.”

At about 5 p.m., protesters silently left the audience and made their way to the roof of the Prospective Student Center, adjacent to the union. From the audience, the protesters were heard chanting “No fee,” sometimes interrupting speakers.

As the ceremony ended and the reception began, protesters went up to the second floor of the student union and raised their signs for the people in the plaza below to see.

“When I went to school, I was a part of the protests for the Vietnam-Cambodian War,” class of 1980 alumni Carl Stranne said. “This protesting over the fee is really toned-down compared to all of that.”

The protesters wrapped up at 6 p.m.

“If they’re peaceful and they’re not breaking the law, then it is perfectly okay,” Knight said. “The protesters are able to exercise their First Amendment rights.”

Associated Students President Josh Morse said he thought the protest’s message was delivered in a thought-provoking way, and didn’t detract from the ceremony.

“I appreciate how respectful they were,” Morse said. “It was a powerful message of solidarity, not because they were loud, but because they were respectful.”

Luke Henning, the Assistant News Editor contributed to this story.

Photo by Wesley Beights, Staff Photographer