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Y. campus protests to be rather decorous

By Tad Walch
Deseret Morning News
      PROVO — Students in the Republican and Democrat clubs at Brigham Young University will stage dueling campus protests today at 11 a.m. to air their opinions about the upcoming visit of Vice President Dick Cheney.
Image (Deseret Morning News Graphic)
Deseret Morning News Graphic
      The College Democrats club will demonstrate in the Joseph F. Smith Building Quad, which is the area between the front of the building and the Harold B. Lee Library.
      The College Republicans will counter with a rally in the Marigold Quad between the W.W. Clyde Building and the Thomas L. Martin Building, commonly known as the MARB.
      Both protests will last two hours, but "protest" might be too strong a word.
      Leaders on both sides plan to follow strict guidelines laid out by the BYU administration when it approved the Democrats' rally under the university's policy regarding public forums.
      First, only students, faculty and staff are allowed to join the demonstrations. BYU policy does not allow off-campus groups to use the campus as a public forum.
      BYU administrators asked protesters not to attack them, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — which owns BYU — or the church's First Presidency.
      Demonstrators are not to yell, shout, chant or carry signs that include personal attacks.
      "They expect us to self-police it," said Spencer Dorsey, secretary of the College Democrats club. "They didn't give a specific consequence if we didn't follow the rules."
      The Democrats are making extra signs to replace those people bring that might be too edgy.
      "We're trying to provide a platform for dialogue," Dorsey said, "so we're not going to do a ton of censoring, but if someone is obviously not following the rules, we'll ask them to stop."
      The Republicans, well, they agree.
      "This is not a gang war but a counter-rally and pro-BYU party," the student Republican club said in an e-mail sent to state Republican leaders and other supporters on Tuesday. "We don't want to have any problems or conflicts."
      That said, the e-mail took a typical political dig at the other side: "Although, if the Democrats got upset at us and lost their tempers, it might make great news. Remember Howard Dean?"
      The College Democrats obtained permission from BYU for their protest last week, while the Republicans received the OK Tuesday.
      Democrat Dorsey said the club's goal is not to encourage BYU to retract the invitation to Cheney issued by the three-man First Presidency in their roles as chairman and vice chairmen of the board of trustees, even though several professors have made it clear they hope to change the minds of administrators.
      "We realize he's been invited and we support the First Presidency and the board of trustees in their decision," Dorsey said. "We're trying to make it clear this school isn't comprised entirely of Cheney supporters."
      That message flashed around the country today as an Associated Press story was published in newspapers and TV Web sites from Minnesota to Texas and Massachusetts to Oregon, not to mention France, the United Kingdom and Canada.
      Blogs responded with exaggerated headlines like the one at Wonkette.com, a D.C. gossip/satire site: "Mormons to Cheney: Even We Hate You Now."
      The Wall Street Journal's political blog "Washington Wire" said the fact students at one of the most conservative universities in America don't want Cheney on campus "takes Veep bashing to a new level."
      All the attention, including an interview request from Newsweek, boosted enthusiasm among the College Democrats.
      "We're doing really well," Dorsey said. "We've gotten a lot of positive response. Our main goal is raise awareness and people are engaging in dialogue."
      The dialogue also includes dueling petition drives. The College Democrats were nearing their goal Tuesday of collecting 3,000 names by the time Cheney speaks at BYU's commencement exercises on April 26.
      The College Republicans upped the ante Tuesday by calling for supporters to collect 10,000 names.
      And today, they'll be in dueling colors, Republicans in BYU blue and Democrats in BYU white.


E-mail: twalch@desnews.com