BATON ROUGE, La. – As almost 1,300 people Friday streamed into the student union at Louisiana State University to hear Congressman Ron Paul speak, a handful of socialist activists stood outside with an anti-Ron Paul banner proclaiming, “Education and living wages are Human Rights!”
Nathan Anderson of Student Labor Action Project said his group was not there to protest, but to promote a “civil dialogue” with students and others going to see the congressman and presidential candidate. And indeed, a couple of quiet conversations about the relative merits of a college education continued as the hundreds queued up to get their tickets and enter the hall.
Anderson was concerned that “people don’t have a full image of Ron Paul” beyond his opposition to wars abroad and the drug war at home. SLAP was most interested in letting students know that Paul is not a big fan of federal student aid, of federal involvement of education, nor of the social safety net in general.
Anderson said their appearance outside the Paul speech was only the third action for the new group on campus. Earlier in the year they had organized a counterprotest to the March for Life after deciding that “a woman’s right to her body is a working-class issue.” Asked if any SLAPpers had plans to go inside and hear Paul’s views on education and other issues, Anderson said, “I don’t think so.”
Many others were interested in hearing Paul, however. Ma Xiaoyao, a physics graduate student, won’t be voting as he is a foreign student, but said “I like American culture. I want to hear the candidates speak.” Nick Burrell, an LSU undergrad, was attending his first political rally. Burrell told Daily Caller, “Disbanding the Federal Reserve is my main issue … that, and pulling out of the war in Afghanistan.”
The crowd was raring to go and chanting “End the Fed!” by the time everyone was seated. Two leaders of Youth for Ron Paul, the organization the congressman was in town to launch took the stage for the introduction. Greg Hewete told the crowd that, as a fourth-year Air Force ROTC cadet, “Personally, I would be ecstatic if our guest speaker here tonight were our Commander-in-Chief when I entered the service. Ron Paul understands and listens to our own people in the C.I.A. when they talk about blowback and the motives for why we are attacked.”
Paul finally took the stadium to chants of “President Paul,” and quickly followed up on the theme of national security; arguing that the need to defend our national sovereignty does not justify assuming the role of world policeman, that there is no money to do so, and that “Ten years in Afghanistan is enough, and it’s time to get out!” Each line drew more applause than the last.
Paul also discussed the loss of liberties on the home front. The audience loudly booed the Patriot Act and cheered Paul’s call to end the war on drugs. Paul went on to argue for the freedom to choose not just marijuana, but industrial hemp, raw milk, vitamins and lightbulbs. Next up was the Federal Reserve with its existence booed and a call for its abolition cheered.
The SLAP activists who argued that rights come from the “social community” must have been mistaken in their concern that Paul supporters were unaware of the congressman’s opposing position. Paul’s discourse on the origin of rights –– “rights came to us in an individual way from our Creator, form nature” –– and rejection of the entitlement culture was applauded as loudly as anything by the crowd.
After the speech was over the party moved a few miles up the road to the grand opening of the state headquarters for the Paul 2012 campaign. Whereas the crowd on campus was largely students and other youthful supporters, the crowd at the afterparty was a broad cross-section of young and old. Hundreds waited in line to get a picture with the candidate. The Paul campaign told TheDC that although they were expecting only a few hundred to turn out at the headquarters, 850 showed up.