LUCR protest raises money, eyebrows

Peter Gillette

The Lawrence University College Republicans raised $600 during John Kerry’s rally last Friday, irking many democrats who charged the CRs with taking advantage of handicapped motorists and deliberately deceiving Kerry supporters.In addition to the fundraiser, LUCR Chairman Michael Papincak led a group of about a dozen Republicans in a protest across the street from the rally, shouting “Four more years” and the like. Papincak reports a skirmish between a Kerry supporter and a member of the Marquette College Republicans that resulted with both being detained. An onlooker also stole the LUCR bullhorn before being caught by police, who had been standing across the street for the entirety of the event.

50 Marquette College Republicans followed Kerry throughout Wisconsin Friday protesting.

The protest and fundraiser took place on land owned by Republican Ben Ganther, a construction company CEO, whose business sits directly across the street from the Alexander Gym.

According to LUCR Secretary Sarah Leet, rally organizers hadn’t planned for adequate parking, and Ganther’s 550-car lot was in prime position. Ganther then contacted the LUCR organization and offered them to chance to organize paid parking.

In a letter to the The Lawrentian published today (see page 7), College Democrats’ VP of Programming Kass Kuehl expressed her disgust for what she viewed as a deceptive money-making scheme.

“Those paying for parking spots had no idea where there money was going to,” said Kuehl. “As a loud-mouthed Democrat, I would have rather walked miles then pay ten dollars for a prime parking spot if I had known that my money was going to support all that I stand against.”

Leet, who was heading up much of the parking fundraiser, says that motorists were told that the owner would donate profits to “a non-profit organization. It’s Ben’s money. We were happy that he chose to give it to us,” Leet said, adding that CRs were helping out Ganther. “We got a couple of questions, but most people handed over the money without question.” Leet also pointed out that most motorists are used to high parking rates at Lambeau Field and the like.

To Leet, the central issue is one of private property. She charges Democrats with poor planning and taking Ganther’s parking lot for granted and never calling him to set up parking permission. “Somehow it’s our fault that they’re poor planners. It’s not our fault,” Leet said.

Many motorists assumed that the parking, since it was so close, was Dem-sponsored handicapped parking. The LUCRs hadn’t anticipated so many handicapped drivers and so, when Leet says half of the lot was filled with handicapped drivers, the LUCRs called Ganther. Leet says Ganther and the LUCRs decided that handicapped motorists likely have able-bodied drivers and can be dropped off like anyone else, but that “90 year-old couples [those who are obviously very very old] should be allowed in for free.”

The Kerry campaign became alerted when handicapped motorists began complaining about having to pay. One such motorist, Jeanne Neese of Appleton talked to The Lawrentian as she walked through the disabled entrance’s metal detector.

Neese interrogated the parking attendant on the money and eventually found out that the money would go to the LUCRs and was allowed to park even as she refused to pay. But Neese was visibly shaken and angry:

“He told me that ‘there are extremists on your side too.’ Well, I don’t know anyone on my side who would charge handicapped people to park. I mean, you have to live with yourself at night.”

Leet shrugs off Neese’s charges and the angry campaign volunteers who took time off from the event to alert motorists to tell motorists to refuse to pay. “They were just livid, and it was actually quite humorous,” Leet said.

The protest/fundraiser brought the LUCRs publicity on television tations throughout Wisconsin, something Leet expected: “It’s one of those things you see on the news for thirty seconds…to give you a chuckle.”

Papincak says the money will be used to promote Bush on campus, a campus that, Papincak bemoans, is violently anti-Bush.

“I see protestors [against Bush] lining the Ave and I recognize their right to protest, and will defend that right. But as soon as it’s a Republican protesting, people everywhere are driving by using the f-word against us. I mean, there were little kids out there hearing [all of these words] and seeing the middle-finger. It just doesn’t seem necessary.”

The event raised more for the LUCRs in two hours than they had raised in the last three years. “So, we’d like to thank the Kerry campaign for their support,” Leet joked.