By Cole Caviston, Staff Writer
A small protest against visiting Republican senatorial nominee Scott Brown took place near Huddleston Hall at the University of New Hampshire early Friday afternoon.
The protesters’ issues ranged from women’s rights, health care, climate change and corporate influence in Washington to marriage equality.
Brown was attending a political rally in Huddleston Hall alongside Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who endorsed him there in Brown’s campaign against incumbent Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
The protests were a collaboration between student organizations and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Student groups that took part included Voices for Planned Parenthood (VOX), the Peace and Justice League (PJL) and the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC).
A few non-student volunteers from Planned Parenthood were also in attendance.
The protests began around 1:30 p.m., almost half an hour before Brown was scheduled to speak. The protestors first began their demonstration on the sidewalk of Main Street just in front of Huddleston Hall before moving to Quad Way near the Memorial Union Building.
Emily Dickman, a UNH senior, is a VOX member who was responsible for setting up a Facebook page that announced the protests. She said that the event was organized at the last minute after the announcement that Brown would visit UNH.
According to Dickman, the protest was aimed at the former Massachusetts senator’s voting record and his position on women’s right to choose and access to health care initiatives.
“Scott Brown doesn’t really stand for women or women’s choices, so we’re holding up some signs for not taking away my breast exams, birth control and a lot of other issues Scott Brown stands for,” Dickman said.
“We’re here to just show that we don’t want him, he’s not right for New Hampshire and we want to make that apparent,” said Jessica Wojenski, a UNH senior and VOX member. “We’re just trying to spread awareness and make a physical stand.”
A volunteer from Planned Parenthood, who did not wish to be named, said that she and the other volunteers brought along signs to the protest at Dickman’s request. She was deeply critical of Brown’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
“He voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provides over millions of people with health care services, including many preventative services such as breast cancer screenings and cervical cancer screenings,” the volunteer said.
Griffin Sinclair-Wingate, a sophomore with the Peace and Justice League, said his group was opposed to Brown’s ties with Exxon Mobil Corp., Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. and the Koch brothers.
“Scott Brown has $50,000 invested in Exxon Mobil Stock and that could very much produce a conflict of interests between the benefits of the people and the benefits of corporations,” Sinclair-Wingate said.
Eric Petersson, a UNH sophomore, who demonstrated with two other members of SEAC, said that his group did not officially support a particular candidate, but is in favor of those who take environmental concerns into account.
“One of the issues we have with this particular candidate is that he’s got a lot of money invested in oil companies,” Peterson said. “We support candidates who take environmental concerns into account.”
More importantly, Peterson highlighted the university’s custom — to try to be sustainable.
“We are a green campus and I want them to be aware that we stand behind climate issues such as climate change,” Peterson said.
A group of four men with a young boy held their own demonstration opposite the protesters in support of Brown. According to ‘Moose,’ a demonstrator who was dressed in a moose costume to represent the Granite State, they had arrived earlier to attend the Brown rally.
“We didn’t know that [the protestors] were here,” ‘Moose’ said. “ We just came here to support Scott.”
“I’m here for myself and my personal beliefs and to express how much and how deeply I support Scott Brown,” ‘Moose’ said.
The protesters were eventually approached by a campus policeman and were told that they had to move back to the Main Street sidewalk, as they lacked a permit to demonstrate on-campus. The group then moved back to Main Street where they continued to demonstrate until 3:16 p.m.
As the protestors held out signs to the crowded downtown, a group of UNH students wearing Scott Brown campaign shirts walked by and poised for a picture with the Brown supporters.
One of them, Nathan Marsolais, a freshman, said he was sympathetic to the demonstrators but was not supportive of the protesters’ purpose.
“I don’t not support them,” Marsolais said. “However, I don’t think it’s one of the biggest issues we have going on right now.”