UI students demonstrate outside Pence speech

The students said they wanted to make it clear that the former Vice President was not welcome on campus, and demonstrate against his rhetoric and policies.


Gabby Drees

A couple dozen students protested against former Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the University of Iowa.

Natalie Dunlap, Politics Editor

A couple dozen students stood outside of the Iowa Memorial Union before, during, and after former Vice President Mike Pence’s speech on Monday night. The demonstrators used signs, chalk and chants to show their opposition to Pence’s visit to the University of Iowa campus. 

When speech attendants left the building, protesters blocked the stairs, forcing many down the ramp, while other attendants pushed past the protesters, resulting in a handful of protesters and one attendant falling down the stairs. 

Both groups exchanged insults, sometimes using homophobic and transphobic slurs. 

Andrew Dunn, a 23-year-old fourth year student majoring in political science, was one of the protest organizers. He said he was somewhat disappointed in the behavior of attendees and protesters. 

“I don’t obviously condone people throwing insults, and all that stuff,” Dunn said. “I understand why people are angry. I think the whole thing is like, everyone’s angry, and we need to work on a way to fix that.” 

Dunn said it is still important for attendants to understand real people are affected by Pence’s rhetoric and the policies from the Trump-Pence administration and Pence’s time as governor of Indiana, including Pence’s handling of HIV outbreaks in Indiana and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“And beyond that, he’s just a hateful bigot,” Dunn said. 

RELATED: Pence praises Iowa’s protection of conservative priorities during UI visit

Dunn is running for the Iowa House as a Democrat, but the event was not related to his campaign, and Dunn said actions of the protestors were their own. 

Evan Weidl, a second-year student, stood up and yelled during Pence’s speech. He was escorted out. 

“I was just saying like, LGBT people aren’t your enemy, the ruling class is your enemy, Trump is your enemy. It’s not like regular people, it’s the one percent,” Wiedl said. “You know, I wish I could have gotten a more coherent speech out, but something about yelling at the vice president while a room full of people is booing at you kind of fries your brain.” 

Weidl said he was trying to reason with the audience, not attack them, but said it probably came across as hostile because he was yelling. 

“As much as some of us may not want to interact with these people, the best way to do it is probably to reason with them,” he said. “We have to get them on our side, because I think a lot of people here, and myself included, believe that the real divide in this country isn’t between Democrat or Republican, it’s between ruling class and lower class.” 

Sarah Vaughn, one of the student protesters, said they wanted to get people’s attention and show that young people are getting involved in politics. 

“We’re kind of hoping to kind of stir things up and just say this is not welcome on our campus. We want a place that’s welcoming and safe for everyone,” Vaughn said.