Eric Cantor protest draws ire, support of community
Some believe Cantor’s speech would have added perspective to the situation
October 21, 2011, 7:35 pm · Updated December 12, 2011, 4:36 pm·
Justin Cohen | DP
By 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 21, most Eric Cantor protesters had emptied out of Huntsman Hall and began marching eastward back into Center City. That morning, amid reports of anticipated protesters and discrepancies over the attendance policy, Cantor canceled his Wharton Leadership Lecture scheduled for Friday afternoon in Huntsman.
Earlier, about 100 protesters marched into Huntsman through Au Bon Pain, undeterred by the absence of the House Majority Leader and stopped only by a human chain of Penn and Philadelphia police officers blocking the way further into the building.
Outside Huntsman, as the crowd of protesters and Penn onlookers thinned out to a few small groups of protesters, Penn students took in what had just happened and exchanged thoughts with each other.
Engineering freshman Jeff Chudakoff said Cantor’s speech would have given more perspective to the situation. “It would have been more beneficial if the speech had gone forward and Cantor responded to the people. We’re getting limited to one perspective, and we can’t get both sides,” she said.
Wharton freshman Ekansh Kumar spent part of his afternoon standing amongst a crowd at the foot of the 38th Street bridge, debating the pros and cons of universal health care with Theresa Brown Gold, an artist and healthcare activist. As they shot back and forth about the value of a man’s life and looking at the “bigger” picture, more Penn students gathered around to hear what the visitor and the student had to say to each other.
He reflected on the nature of the entire protest. Kumar didn’t like how “they just shout out buzz words.” “It’s a classic way to get people involved, but at a school like Penn, I don’t think it’ll work,’ he said.
Regarding the movement as a whole, “I think right now it’s [dealing] too far with the strong issues, it’s too strong in being broad instead of focusing and being concise and addressing actual issues—for example, the way bonuses are structured in a lot of companies. I think it’s a misplaced target, the one percent.”
Other students such as College senior Zach Roberts joined the protesters on a whim, but didn’t seem to have any vested interest in the protest, as he explained, he “was just here to make people laugh” as well as “[make fun] of anybody that’s an easy target.” Roberts and three friends held signs with messages such as “This is the single worst orgy I’ve ever been to.”
“I think a lot of Penn students find themselves sympathizing [with protesters], but find themselves being part of the one percent anyway, which makes it hard to be part of the movement,” he said.
“I think this was really good for Wharton,” reflected Anne Gemmell, the political director of Fight for Philly and a member of the Occupy Philadelphia direct action committee. She pointed to the fact that just a few days ago, the front-page story on the Daily Pennsylvanian was on Wharton graduate Raj Rajaratnam’s 11-year jail sentence for insider trading.
After Friday’s events, perhaps “Wharton will begin to soul search a little bit,” she said.