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Students protest Brewer at Sun Devil pep rally

(Photo by Yousef Hawash)
(Photo by Yousef Hawash)

Student protesters met Gov. Jan Brewer Friday when she visited ASU to cheer on the Sun Devil football team.

Brewer came to the Wells Fargo Arena for the Tenth Annual Sun Devil Kickoff Luncheon, which included a pep rally also featuring Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz.

About 25 protesters gathered outside of the arena at 10:30 a.m., an hour before the pep rally was set to begin.

Protesters speaking out against Arizona’s controversial immigration law, commonly known as Senate Bill 1070, chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, Jan Brewer’s got to go” and “We are humans, we have rights, we are here to stand and fight.”

History senior Sandra Castro organized the protest and said she didn’t understand why a controversial politician like Brewer had been invited to a University event.

“It makes no sense to us why she would be chosen to speak at our pep rally,” Castro said. “With her support of [SB] 1070, it’s affected my community and students on campus.”

Brewer was selected to speak by the Tempe Chamber of Commerce, which was a co-sponsor of the event.

As rain kept protesters huddled under tree branches during the beginning of the protest, Castro said there were some who would be there rain or shine.

“We may be few today because of the rain,” she said, “but this is our university and we have a right to say who’s going to come to this university and speak.”

Brewer, however, focused her speech on football, making only one reference to facing adversity.

“It really doesn’t matter what the critics say or write, what matters is believing in yourself and the determination that’s going to take you through the adversity,” Brewer said during the pep rally. “Trust me, I know about that.”

Protester Kelly Hale, an archeology graduate student, said it is a human duty to stand up to unjust laws.

“We’re incredibly disappointed that she’s here, and ASU needs to hear it, and the people going into this pep rally need to hear it,” Hale said.

Because Brewer is the face of SB 1070 to the public, her presence at the pep rally was enough to warrant protest whether she spoke about immigration or not, Hale said.

“You can’t just say ‘Well, this is a de-politicized event,’” Hale said. “If you don’t want us to show up, then don’t invite Jan Brewer.”

Nursing sophomore Sarah Hollowell attended the pep rally, but not as a protester. She said while it was good that students were protesting, she wasn’t sure if doing it during a pep rally was appropriate.

“Students deserve to know what’s going on,” Hollowell said. “I’m kind of against it happening during a pep rally because it could cause tension among students.”

Hollowell said she supports Brewer and McCain, but the law is not perfect.

“SB 1070 is good because something needs to be done about immigration, but [the law] is problematic,” she said.

ASU Police were on hand at the event, but said they did not expect any problems.

“We’re here to make sure things don’t get out of hand,” said ASU Police Department spokesman Cmdr. Jim Hardina. “We’re here to protect their First Amendment right to free speech and to make sure they don’t interfere with the event.”

The protest ended at 1 p.m. without any unpleasant  incident.

The speakers inside focused on supporting the Sun Devils.

“It’s been my great pleasure to be a Sun Devil fan for more than a quarter of a century,” McCain said.

Mitchell said the football team needed the support of many to succeed.

“As a life-long resident of Tempe and a Sun Devil, I appreciate being invited here,” Mitchell said. “We’re all in this together.”

ASU Coach Dennis Erickson said his team was looking forward to the current football season.

“We’ve got a goal, we’ve got a chip on our shoulder,” Erickson said. “We’re going to surprise a heck of a lot of people.”

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