Vice President Dick Cheney speaks with former governor Scott Walker in Eaton Chapel amid peaceful protests and counter-events
This is preliminary coverage of the various events held on the night of September 10. The Round Table will continue to cover the event hosted by YAF and the SIC Block Party in the coming days.
This Thursday, Oct. 10, the Beloit College chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) hosted a discussion and question-and-answer session with former Vice President Dick Cheney in Eaton Chapel. Cheney’s talk was moderated by former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, a Republican. Tension was high on campus leading up the visit, which occurred a few months after Erik Prince was unable to speak at the college due to disruptions in Pearsons Hall. Cheney, who served under President George W. Bush and is also a former Secretary of Defense and White House Chief of Staff, was instrumental in the build-up to the Iraq War and the passing of the controversial Patriot Act.
Cheney was slated to speak at 7pm in Eaton Chapel. Leading up to this event were several emails sent by Director of Security Bruce Heine and President Scott Bierman, informing students of the safety protocols in place at Eaton Chapel and the college’s policy on peaceful protests. On the Beloit College student Facebook page several posts were made by Nate Acharya’20, which promoted a meeting by the new organization Left United that would be centered on what “actions” would be taken outside of the chapel.
At approximately 5:36pm a police presence was visible around Eaton Chapel. Officers donning neon yellow vests arrived with an SUV and trailer and began taping a section of land surrounding the chapel out to the sidewalk off with yellow crime scene tape. According to Beloit Police Department Sergeant Christian Dalton, who told the Round Table their presence was “requested by the college,” the police procedures in place on the night of October 10 were not “normal” and were “due to the Eric Prince event… and taking all precautions that nothing bad happens.” Dalton said he was operating with intel about upcoming protests “which is why we are here in the capacity we are here.” The Beloit Police Department were “protecting the entire venue… not just the speaker” and deployed both Janesville, Rock County, and Beloit’s mobile police force with “21 officers total.” This number, according to Dalton, was due to no information provided from protestors on their number of attendees.
Dalton described the protestors who did attend, under the new student organization Left United, as “courteous” and asked if there was a designated area for them to protest.
Around 6pm, students and community members from the newly-founded student group Left United, arrived outside of Eaton Chapel with homemade signs made largely out of sheets. There were around twenty or fewer members of the protesting group, who stood in an area designated by Beloit police officers and sang songs throughout the night before disbanding at 7:20pm. Flyers were distributed to attendees outlining several facts about the Bush-Cheney administration and cited sources.
Students for an Inclusive Campus (SIC)’s event, the Beloit Block Party, described on their Facebook event as “celebrat[ing] the Beloit community,” began at 6:30pm with a location change to the Science Center Atrium from outside the Science Center due to light rain. Gabe Gonzalez’20, who was largely responsible for organizing the event, explaining that alumni Tobias Gurl had contacted SIC and “was inspired” by the activism of the students and was capping donations from alumni based on attendance at “$5,000.” The event hosted 13 student clubs and organizations, including Feminist Collective, Sexuality and Gender Alliance, Voces, Beloit Urban Garden, Pocket Lint, Theta, and music from WBCR. A large canoe was set up in the back of the atrium filled with iced beverages. The booths included crafting stations, a raffle for a free vibrator from SHARCC, pizza, and a photography station.
Attendance inside the chapel was capped at 438, according to a Beloit police officer who spoke with the Round Table. Chair of Beloit’s branch of YAF Andrew Collins’20 introduced Cheney and Walker. He explained that questions could be texted to a number that was posted around the room, and that they would be fielded electronically.
Cheney began his remarks by noting that he had briefly attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and sharing anecdotes from his time living in Wisconsin before he began his political career. In response to a question from Walker, he also told a number of anecdotes from his experiences during and immediately after the events of Sept. 11. Walker and Cheney noted that most current Beloit students are too young to remember the attacks.
After just under half an hour, Walker began reading questions that had been selected from those sent in by audience members.
As the chapel doors began to open again around 7:58pm, the student protestors formed a line around their banners and used umbrellas to cover their faces.