Group protests JLS’s criticizing U.S. Govt.

By Gretchyn Lenger

campus editor

A group of demonstrators calling themselves “Students For America” gathered in the Martin Luther King Memorial Commons Wednesday night to protest the John Lennon Society.

NIU history instructor and graduate student Michael Hickey said he saw about 12 people wash the JLS’s chalk-written advertisements for former CIA agent John Stockwell off the cement as they carried the American flag and hummed the national anthem. Stockwell is scheduled to speak at NIU Feb. 24 about CIA covert operations and recruitment tactics.

ickey said, “Twelve, maybe more people, at least half of them wearing sunglasses, carrying two balled-up American flags and two squirt cannisters were standing in front of the (Holmes Student) Center waiting until the mall cleared out.”

“I had passed them, and when there was no one left standing there (in the mall) I heard one of them say, ‘Let’s unfurl the flag … make sure it doesn’t touch the ground.’ Then, while humming the national anthem, two of them took the squirt cans and sprayed off what was written in chalk,” he said.

ickey said an argument ensued when he tried to stop the demonstrators, who then made “physical threats and insulting comments.”

“I walked up and said, ‘If you respect your right to free speech, you have no right to wipe out what someone else has said.’ The guy who appeared to be the head said that their rights meant they could do anything they wanted, and that the people who wrote it had no rights because they aren’t Americans” because they criticized the U.S. government, Hickey said.

ickey said the demonstrators told him Stockwell is not a “good American” because he no longer works for the CIA. “I said that General Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and various congressmen had also criticized the CIA, and they (demonstrators) said, if that was true, then they (Eisenhower and Kennedy) were reds,” he said.

Shortly after the incident, The Northern Star received an anonymous phone call from a man who said, “We are protesting the John Lennon Society and their disrespectful claims about the CIA and their disrespect for the preservation of democracy for the United States of America.”

The caller said he was a member of Students For America, the group responsible for the demonstration, and he refused to give any names of group members.

JLS President Jim Fabris said the chalk messages had read: “Secret wars of the CIA—10,000 to 20,000 covert actions run in the last 37 years—a minimum of one million people killed.” He said Stockwell’s speech is a student funded activity and the JLS had permission to advertise in the commons.

A representative of University Programming and Activities said students do not need permission to hold demonstrations or protests within the “free speech” area, meaning the cement block outside the HSC bookstore.

“The JLS is for democracy and that’s why we’re opposed to the CIA. The CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Chile, killed the president and installed a right-wing dictator who does not hold an election … I think they (Students For America) violated our freedom of speech … they’re trying to keep students at NIU in the dark,” Fabris said.

Fabris also said he has never heard of Students For America, and “I imagine they were formed this (Wednesday) afternoon.”

ickey said, “I have been here for nine years and I’ve never seen anything so blind as to what is and isn’t American.”