Purdue students lead march against former President George W. Bush campus visit

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — As the sun began to set over Purdue University Tuesday, around 100 people from the Purdue community marched to Elliott Hall of Music to protest the arrival of former United States President George W. Bush on campus.

Protestors demonstrated against the former president’s visit as well as the Bush administration's involvement with the Iraq War. Bush was invited as part of outgoing President Mitch Daniels’ final Presidential Lecture Series.

Identified media were not allowed inside the event Tuesday night.

Protestors wait for the march to start during a protest organized by the Young Democratic Socialist of America Purdue chapter and the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America chapter in response to former president George W. Bush visiting campus, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
Protestors wait for the march to start during a protest organized by the Young Democratic Socialist of America Purdue chapter and the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America chapter in response to former president George W. Bush visiting campus, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Bush was the guest of honor as the pair shared a stage together like old times – Daniels served in the Bush administration as director of the office of management and budget – to hold “a discussion of leadership in challenging times and the responsibilities of an informed citizenship," according to a Purdue announcement.

As Bush’s arrival neared, students from the Young Democratic Socialists of America at Purdue and members from the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America responded with a call to action in hopes of “letting Purdue know we do not tolerate war criminals on our campus.”

Protestors march on campus during a protest organized by the Young Democratic Socialist of America Purdue chapter and the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America chapter in response to former president George W. Bush visiting campus, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
Protestors march on campus during a protest organized by the Young Democratic Socialist of America Purdue chapter and the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America chapter in response to former president George W. Bush visiting campus, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

“There was a spontaneous outburst of people who wanted to come to protest George Bush’s visit to campus tonight, and I think these are folks that remember the horribleness of the war against Iraq that he ordered, and Afghanistan,” said Bill Mullen, a retired Purdue University professor and member of the GLDSA.

“The fact that 200,000 Iraqi were needlessly killed and falsely blamed for what happened on 9/11. And several thousand American mostly working-class men and women lost their lives in that war. And those folks are here to say we reject those wars and what people to remember the truth and not to have the truth white-washed about how absolutely destructive those wars were.”

On March 20, 2003, President George W. Bush and his administration declared war on Iraq, claiming the U.S. would disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, ending the reign of Saddam Hussein and free the people of Iraq.

Protestors wait for the march to start during a protest organized by the Young Democratic Socialist of America Purdue chapter and the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America chapter in response to former president George W. Bush visiting campus, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
Protestors wait for the march to start during a protest organized by the Young Democratic Socialist of America Purdue chapter and the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America chapter in response to former president George W. Bush visiting campus, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

American forces won a decisive battle against the forces under the regime of Saddam Hussein, in April 2003, in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Although the United States military stayed in the country for several years as part of contingency operations, ultimately leaving in 2011.

For many of the students participating in the protest, this period of American history was more recognizable in a textbook, as many were young children when the fighting in the Middle East began.

“I think we all realize that a lot of the students at Purdue, for example, they probably may not have even been born when the United States invaded Iraq or remember the Bush presidency,” said Mullen.

“And we think there’s an attempt to white-wash history and not tell Purdue’s new generation of students the truth about George Bush, and that’s not the role of a university. The role of a university is, to tell the truth, and produce knowledge.”

One student, who was 3 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the United States, reflected on her upbringing and discussed what she remembered from that period of her life.

“I remember very little. Speaking personally, I am from a very religious, very right-leaning family, so my memories of Bush’s presidency are from the other side of this,” said Emily Slater, a member of the YSDA.

“My memories are of extreme patriotism, extreme support for the war in Iraq, extreme support for George Bush, but we’re also from Texas, so hopefully that makes sense.”

Slater recalled that she didn’t start learning about the Iraq War and the Bush presidency until she was around 15 years old and didn’t truly learn the depths of the war until she was in college.

Protestors march on campus during a protest organized by the Young Democratic Socialist of America Purdue chapter and the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America chapter in response to former president George W. Bush visiting campus, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
Protestors march on campus during a protest organized by the Young Democratic Socialist of America Purdue chapter and the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America chapter in response to former president George W. Bush visiting campus, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

For many students, the demonstration was fueled by a desire to discuss the totality of Bush’s administration.

“When I say Bush, you say lair!”

“Bush!”

“Lair,” students could be heard chanting as they marched.

As they made their way to Elliott Hall of Music, people who were waiting in line to get inside started to notice their arrival.

People in line for the talk look towards the protestors during a protest organized by the Young Democratic Socialist of America Purdue chapter and the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America chapter in response to former president George W. Bush visiting campus, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
People in line for the talk look towards the protestors during a protest organized by the Young Democratic Socialist of America Purdue chapter and the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America chapter in response to former president George W. Bush visiting campus, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Many of the onlookers chuckled and scoffed at the protestors. Some, primarily the younger adults waiting in line, pondered on the meaning behind the protest.

Protestors stood parallel to ticketholders, only being divided by the sidewalk and police.

“They hope that we are young, that we are unaware and that they can rewrite history. And rehabilitate the image of a president who blatantly lied to the American people in order to lead us into an unnecessary and costly war,” shouted one of the protestors.

Not everyone in the crowd gathered in support of the protestors. There were several who made fun of the protestors. They could be seen waving around a “Make America Great Again” flag as they videotaped themselves laughing at the protestors.

A group of counter-protesters react to the protest during a protest organized by the Young Democratic Socialist of America Purdue chapter and the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America chapter in response to former president George W. Bush visiting campus, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
A group of counter-protesters react to the protest during a protest organized by the Young Democratic Socialist of America Purdue chapter and the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America chapter in response to former president George W. Bush visiting campus, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

At one point there was a heckler who yelled at the protestors: “We were only there for 15 months, you f***ing a**holes,” before walking away from the area.

By the time ticketholders were able to find their seats inside, organizers had handed out around 500 flyers and attracted a small group of students curious about the cause.

Noe Padilla is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email him at Npadilla@jconline.com and follow him on Twitter at 1NoePadilla.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Purdue students lead march against former President Bush's campus visit