April 6, 2007

Organizers no-shows at Boeing protest

Amid below-average temperatures and an even chillier public response, almost 100 people marched from downtown's Daley Plaza to Boeing Headquarters on Wednesday to protest the airline giant's government military contracts and presence in Chicago. Although U of C student organizers publicized the event around campus, no University students attended and the general response on campus was lackluster.

Held by the Committee to Kick Boeing to the Curb (CKBC), the protest was the third to accuse the Boeing Corporation of war profiteering.

The previous two protests, which were organized in Washington, D.C., and also led by CKBC, resulted in over 75 arrests, including several people who participated in the Daley Plaza protest.

CKBC's protest, however, came under fire from some U of C students who were skeptical of the benefits of protesting a corporation and of the indirect approach to ending the war in Iraq and other international conflicts.

When invited to attend the protest, third-year Christian Brockman rejected the protest's message. "Boeing also contributes $2.6 trillion to commercial airline development," he said. "So either I am protesting for a lost cause, or lots of people suffer. I think I'll pass on this one."

Despite repeated invitations to openly criticize the company and discourage the corporation's involvement in the war and in Chicago, not a single student from the University picketed outside Daley Courtroom. Fourth-year Toby Kramer worked closely with the event's leader, Brad Thomson, and made various efforts to advertise the effort around campus. Ultimately, she failed to raise significant interest in the event.

Kramer did not attend the protest, citing her poor time management and her upcoming B.A. paper deadline. Students on campus, herself included, saw her decision not to attend as contradictory to her promotion of the event.

"I think it was totally hypocritical for me not to show up," she said.

"But I criticized people only for their arguments against the protest, not for their decision not to attend."

Though Kramer said students seem to object to protesting in general, the absence of University students in such a hotly contested political issue seems to contrast with the overwhelming political activism of students in the College. This involvement has recently been made evident by continued protests from STAND and Kick Coke Off Campus, even after the Board of Trustees rejected their plans. But Kramer further insinuated that limited publicity, misguided assumptions, and difficult logistics were significant causes for the lack of University presence.

"I did not reach out to any RSOs or take enough time to explain the complexities of the issue," she said.

The protest did not garner much support off campus, either.

One passerby, as she approached the group at Daley Plaza, asked, "Do you honestly expect to accomplish anything?"