Meet Obama’s FAU protesters

As 3,500 people on the Boca campus waited to see President Barack Obama speak, they were greeted by two groups of angry protesters.

It was April 10, the day Obama visited FAU to deliver his economic address. FAU placed him in The Burrow and closed the event to the public, only allowing students, faculty and media to attend.

One group, a Jewish-Israeli organization, was protesting the president’s foreign policy. The other group, FAU College Republicans, was protesting his economic policy. We looked at who they are and what they are about.


Shalom International protesters rally against Obama, stating his policies are anti-Israel. Photo by Lamise Mansur.

Shalom International

Led by 69-year-old Bob Kunst, this pro-Israel, anti-Obama group had no student protesters.

There were 10 members standing on the corner of Glades Road and FAU’s main entrance. They were the first thing people saw as they drove onto campus during the several hours before the speech.

Kunst waved a banner that read “Israel Jerusalem United.” He had a 2008 email with him that explained the organization’s mission. In it, Shalom International claims that “Obama’s bad for America and Obama’s bad for Israel” — the email wasn’t addressed to anyone. It also read: “Jerusalem has been Jewish for 3,000 plus years. It belongs to every Jew and every Jew that has been murdered for being a Jew. It isn’t negotiable.”

The biggest gripe the group had with Obama, according to Kunst, was his foreign policy and relationship with Hamas.

Kunst, a Miami Beach native, said he feels Obama is on the wrong side of the fence.

“We have a common enemy and, unfortunately, Obama is siding with the very people who want to destroy America and Israel,” Kunst stated. “The issue from our perspective is his foreign policy is a total disaster.”

Other Shalom International protesters didn’t want to talk to the UP.

While protesting, the group was challenged by two people in a passing car honking the horn and making faces at them.

“Go to hell,” one of the protesters screamed back. Another shouted, “Piss on the Quran!”

When the strangers were gone, Kunst said order was restored, “Now we can have a peaceful discussion.”

But it wasn’t long before more cars passed by, honking and yelling, some in support and some in opposition to the protesters.

“[Obama] is so busy playing this game, how can he deal with the economy? And who is suffering the most? The poor community,” Kunst said. “Their unemployment rate is even worse than everybody else and all the millions of people losing their homes.”


One of the anti-Obama protesters, Frances Lowell, rallied outside of FAU to greet the president. Photo by Christine Capozziello.

College Republicans

The FAU College Republicans (CR) was the second group people saw. They had gathered at noon to protest.

But they weren’t only students. Among them were non-student Republicans with a common denominator: Obama out.

Together, they stood outside the Student Union’s parking lot and greeted the president’s motorcade with shouts of “communist” and “socialist.”

One of the protesters, an older man with a large wooden cross around his neck, was equipped with an American flag almost seven feet long, while sophomore English and art major Theresa Allen held up a sign with “FAIL” written across Obama’s face. Of the 17 people, around half were students.

“We want to hear some truth,” Mickey Valentine, the man with the flag, said. He would soon start writing out another sign: “Tell the truth about taxes!” Valentine identified himself with his National Rifle Association membership card, saying, “If you’re not a member of the NRA, you’re not American.”

Another non-student was wandering about, asking if she was at the protest. Eilen Wicke is 65 years old, and this was her first political rally.

“We need a new president desperately,” she said. “We have to get rid of Obama.”

When the group set up, there were three students with the CR and eight adults.

Senior Jeff Arnold said he was the new president of FAU’s College Republicans, and one of the only students to have stuck around from setup to set-down.

Arnold, a political science major who plans on being a pastor, said they were expecting a big turnout.

“We are here to protest an ineffectual economic policy,” Arnold said. Obama’s speech was fitting to this subject as it would focus on the Buffett Rule.

Zuri Davis, a freshman communications major, showed a half-hour into the protest and brought her own sign. She was not there to protest, she said. “I’m here to just show there are still conservatives.”

In contrast, Afra Burtun, a junior history major, showed up for the sole purpose of supporting the CR.

“They need more people to help spread the word,” Burtun said.

When the president arrived, the students immediately held up their signs.

Ashley Anastasi, a sophomore and former CR president, led a chorus of “Boos!” and screamed above the rest: “One term!”

“The president is a communist. Obama’s not welcome at FAU. See this, this is what we are paying for,” He said, referring to the president’s motorcade. “All of this. Can you say overkill? $4 a gallon.”

Even though Arnold had planned to keep the group together until 4 p.m., citing that “[Obama] likes to hear himself talk,” the protesters dispersed as soon as Obama showed up at 2:30 p.m. They had classes to go to, they said.