Students Peacefully Protest Cheney's Upcoming Appearance at Brigham Young University

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By Brock Vergakis
Associated Press
Wednesday, April 4, 2007; 7:55 PM

PROVO, Utah (AP) -- More than 200 demonstrators held a quiet rally Wednesday at Brigham Young University to protest Vice President Dick Cheney's upcoming commencement speech, while his supporters staged a counter-protest.

Cheney will be the commencement speaker April 26 at BYU, a conservative school owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The invitation from Mormon church officials has drawn criticism from some students and faculty who claim the school is showing a partisan stripe despite church insistence it has no allegiance to any political party.

The anti-Cheney protesters passed out leaflets that slammed the vice president's support for the Iraq war, the United States' prisoner interrogation method and Cheney's ties to his former employer, Halliburton Co.

They held signs that read: "America One Nation Under Surveillance" and "Faithful Mormons Against Cheney."

Nearby, Cheney supporters passed out brownies and asked students to sign a letter thanking the vice president. They got 400 names in 40 minutes.

"He's not going to use it as a political forum," senior Bob Reese said of the commencement speech. "He's an example of success."

Campus Democrats were granted space for a two-hour protest, but had to stay in a designated area, could not shout, use bullhorns or bait Cheney supporters.

"We're hoping people will step in and say, 'Maybe these people have a point,'" sophomore Macrae McDermott said. "I think that political dialogue is essential. I may go against the norm, but I have my convictions."

Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride declined to comment on the dueling campus gatherings.

"The vice president is looking forward to visiting Utah," she said from Washington.


© 2007 The Associated Press

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