This story was written by Jack Molitor, The Battalion
The Anti-Obama Carnival, an event sponsored by the Young Conservatives of Texas, started Wednesday in Rudder Plaza as a way for the conservative political organization to poke fun and criticize the Democratic presidential nominee but erupted into a heated debate.Eight members of YCT started the event in the morning and encouraged passers-by to play the games - such as throwing eggs at a large photograph of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. - while handing out leaflets about Obama's economic policy, which they labeled as "communist." As it drew more attention more came to protest or to watch. At its peak, there were about 300 people gathered in the plaza around YCT's table.Most of the crowd gathered to watch, but yelling matches started between supporters and detractors of the event. Students there said that someone picked up an egg and threw it at a member of YCT. One student stood in front of the picture of Obama to deter others from participating. It continued until about 4 p.m., when the display of Obama was removed at the insistence of protesters.Members of YCT said they did not intend for the event to be a racist criticism of Obama, which is what they feared part of the crowd thought."It's really unfortunate," said YCT's executive director, Jay Cunningham. "Calling us racists and bigots ... Race never comes into the equation with Young Conservatives of Texas. Our problem is with his socialistic, liberal policies. We don't not like Obama for the man, we dislike his policies."Cunningham said the crowd forcibly stopped the game but that dozens of people came by to thank them for the event.Tony Listi, chairman of YCT and a senior politic science major, described the event as a carnival to criticize Obama's record."We had a carnival event called 'Throw your nest egg away' for Barack Obama's economic policies," Listi said. " Basically it was to attract attention to Barack Obama's socialist economic record."Some said they had a problem with the way the event was presented - even if they agreed with the group politically."I already voted; I voted for McCain, and I consider myself a conservative," said Logan Havel, a junior engineering technology major. "But I don't think this was the right way to handle the issue they were trying to convey. It should have been a place to have dialogue with people who don't know how they're going to vote. This isn't the way to draw voters to your side.""I think the big issue for everyone is why they were using [Obama's] face," said Tashara Parker, a junior communication major. "If it's about his policies, blow them up and let them throw eggs at that. I'm just proud of the Aggie family, that they got together to discuss this intellectually instead of rioting."Other students said YCT knew the display would provoke observers and create a stir."I didn't see any policies of Obama or anything against Obama or even for McCain, I just saw people throwing eggs at a picture Obama," said Atish Patel, a junior biology major. "They were just doing it to make people angry. If you're going to support a cause, I'd say go pro-one side or the other, rather than anti-one side."Texas A&M Student Body President Mark Gold, who was at the event, said the group had the right to assemble."My take is this is free speech, for sure," Gold said. "So that's they're right as Americans. I would encourage all student groups to think about an issue that is this controversial and to try to see things from all sides."Cunningham said the goal of the event was to inspire conversation and be controversial, but that the anger of the crowd caused the situation to degenerate and discouraged conservatives from coming up to participate. He said he wanted the games to be good-humored.He said that the group made sure the event was University sanctioned.Vice President and Associate Provost for Diversity Tito Guerrero III said in an e-mail message that A&M disaproves of the display and it was not endorsed by the University."It is highly offensive and repugnant," Guerrero said. "The group has the right to express themselves but I question the wisdom of doing so in this way."YCT will retool the event and try again on Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Cunningham said. He said there will be a bullet-point display of Obama policies that YCT supported and disagreed with."We got a lot of feedback," Cunningham said. "But the most effective criticism we got is that we have a picture of Obama and [Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe] Biden, and outline the policies that we disagree with. Hopefully, they won't shut us down again and we can exercise our freedom of speech."