Republicans, Democrats clash at midnight vigil

by Kelsey Blodget | 11/5/04 6:00am

The several dozen supporters of defeated Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry who met for a candlelight vigil on the Green at midnight Wednesday to mourn their candidate's defeat expected a low-key gathering -- not triumphant Republicans and the presence of Safety and Security.

But tensions flared at the already emotional event when a small group of sign-carrying Bush supporters congregated in the same venue to celebrate his reelection. Safety and Security tailed the group as they walked onto the Green to ensure that no conflict erupted.

The vigil had begun quietly. Mitten and scarf-clad Kerry supporters huddled around several dozen burning candles in the cold as they discussed their hopes and frustrations about the election and its aftermath.

The Democrats began by congratulating each other on their successful campaigning efforts in New Hampshire and talked about strategies for preventing a similar national outcome in four years. At one point, energetic chatter died down into a moment of silence. The Democrats looked at the flickering candles in repose, and when a student in the crowd started singing the Star Spangled Banner, everyone joined her.

But proceedings were disrupted slightly when an unidentified student joined their circle with a homemade sign sporting on one side a sad face with a tear and on the other the phrase, "Somebody call a wahmbulance." For the most part, the Democrats ignored him.

The honking and chanting of "Four more years!" coming from two passing cars proved a bit more intrusive, especially as they continued to drive by throughout the night.

But the Democrats continued with their proceedings until approximately eight Republicans congregated ten feet away, and Safety and Security patrolled between the two groups. Later on, the Republicans moved next to the Kerry circle to watch.

College Republicans president Jesse Roisin '05 said his group did not officially organize the event, although he had sent out two BlitzMail messages from the College Republicans account earlier that night asking supporters to meet for a victory rally march through the Green.

"We have accomplished a great thing, and we should celebrate," one of the messages read.

Roisin said he did not intend to send the messages from the College Republicans account and that crashing the Kerry vigil had not been his intent.

"We planned earlier in the day to celebrate the victory of the president," he said. "We did not intend to harass the Kerry supporters who happened to be there. The fact that their event seemed not to be official did not lead us to believe that they had exclusive right to the Green."

The Democratic event was unofficial, and the turnout came entirely from BlitzMail messages sent by two Kerry supporters to their friends. But many of the Democrats said they still found the Republicans' presence inappropriate.

"I thought that we were being very respectful and being very quiet," Zack Styskal '08 said. "I thought that they were like vultures. They waved signs when they already got what they wanted."

Even though Kerry and Bush had both urged the nation as a whole to unite following the election, the Republicans present said they didn't consider their actions divisive. Rather, they said they wanted to make themselves heard because most of the time they feel oppressed on campus.

"Other blitzes I've seen talk about moving to Canada and killing conservatives," Roisin said.

One such message, circulated by the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club read: "How about torch and pitchfork vigil on the Green at midnight and then spreading through the land until we have slaughtered all the conservatives who keep us from living in peace?"

If feelings of ill will existed on the scene, they stayed latent for the duration of the event. Democrats conceded at the night's end that the Republicans had behaved civilly, although some were skeptical about their motives.

"They were decent," Andrea Lesser '08 said. "But I think it was only because Safety and Security was there. Otherwise I think they would have been yelling things like the people in the cars."

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