Students march in support of freedoms

Dylan Boyle

Participating in Thursday’s First Amendment Day Freedom March meant more than just an extra credit opportunity or missing a day of classes for three high school students.

Eighteen-year-old Aaron Glynn and Abby Olson and 14-year-old Reetzi Hughes, all of Des Moines, joined more than 100 students and citizens who marched for about an hour through poor weather from City Hall downtown to the steps of Curtiss Hall in support of the First Amendment.

David Bulla, adviser to the Society of Professional Journalists and assistant professor of journalism and communication, invited Glynn, Hughes and Olson to attend the march and recognized them as “champions of Free Speech.”

The three high school students made statewide news last September when they gathered a group of 20 students and conducted a sit-in at Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Des Moines office in protest of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

After four hours of peaceful protest, Glynn, Hughes and Olson, along with three others, were arrested for trespassing.

The students said office workers, although friendly, tried to persuade them not to exercise their right of free speech.

“There was a lot of fear being thrown at us,” Glynn said. “They tried telling us things like, ‘You’ll never get into college with an arrest on your record,’ and that we would regret our choice in the future.”

Hughes said she was told she could be kicked off her school’s swim team for being arrested, but her swim coach, a lawyer, was willing to stand up for her in court if matters progressed that far.

The student group had decided beforehand that, if it came down to it, four of them would get arrested, but which four wasn’t discussed before the protest.

The students said the choice to get arrested wasn’t hard, and their parents were not disappointed with the choice they made.

“Honestly, I think I showed my parents how strongly I believe in my convictions,” Glynn said. “Because we were released soon after we were arrested, my parents didn’t know I was arrested until they read about it in the paper.”

Glynn, Hughes and Olson said that, because they exercised their rights peacefully, police officers were very friendly and told them they ran “the right kind of protest.”

“We weren’t even handcuffed,” Glynn said. “There was no brutality because we didn’t pose a threat.”

Glynn, who later spoke briefly at a 10 a.m. lecture by Mark Goodman, Knight professor of scholastic journalism at Kent State University, said he thinks young people get the impression they can’t make a difference because they can’t vote.

He said young people should be empowered and remember they have a voice.

“I realized that, when my friends and I hang out, we usually just end up talking, and we might as well talk while volunteering at a soup kitchen or going to a rally,” Glynn said.

To these students, the First Amendment is something all Americans can respect and be proud of.

“Protesting shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Glynn said. “It’s a right everyone can exercise.”

The marchers, made up primarily of high schoolers from across Iowa, remained in high spirits during the kickoff of First Amendment Day and didn’t allow poor weather to rain on their parade.

First Amendment Day was sponsered by the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, the First Amendment Day Committee, SPJ, the ISU Committee on Lectures and the Iowa State Daily.