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Demonstrators Rally for Fairness in Presidential Elections

Young Democrats' rally participants insisted their purpose was not to support a particular political party.

By Brook Corwin

Staff Writer

Republicans and Democrats marched along Franklin Street and through campus Saturday afternoon rallying for a single cause - fairness and democracy in the undecided presidential election.

But their definitions of such democracy and their methods of rallying differed greatly.

Coinciding with more than 100 similar rallies nationwide, about 30 students and local residents convened in the Pit to begin what was billed as a "Rally for Democracy" by the Young Democrats, who organized the event.

Most of the participants carried signs advocating a recount or a revote in Florida, but they insisted their cause transcended political party lines.

"It's not a matter of Democrats versus Republicans," said Rhea Worrell, a Chapel Hill resident and rally participant. "It is a matter of whether we can trust our electoral process."

Such a nonpartisan view was echoed by Young Democrats President Chris Brook as he addressed the sign-toting crowd. "We don't care who wins in Florida," he said. "We just want to know who really won in Florida."

But Justin Johnson, co-vice chairman for the College Republicans, said it was hypocritical on the part of those protesting to call the rally nonpartisan. "They call it a nonpartisan rally, but clearly it is partisan," he said. "Just try and find a (George W.) Bush supporter in that group. At least we're being honest by supporting Bush."

On the opposite side of the Pit, a smaller group composed mostly of the College Republicans quietly gathered with signs supporting Bush.

"We're here as a silent presence," Johnson said. "We want people to know that people still support George Bush."

After giving a short speech, Brook continued the rally by leading a march on Franklin Street. "We're not just going to give our message to campus," he said. "We're going to take our message to the community as a whole."

Behind them, the Republican group marched silently behind a 10-foot-by-5-foot Bush/Cheney sign.

But when the chant changed to "Count the Votes! All the Votes!" Johnson answered by yelling, "Several times!"

"I just had to say that," he said with a smile.

Participant Erin Fornoff, a freshman from Asheville and member of the Young Democrats, said she didn't mind the Bush supporters and that she thought their cause should be the same as those rallying with the Young Democrats.

"(The Republicans) should want the recount, too," she said. "Even if Gore doesn't have more votes after a recount, the Bush presidency will be validated."

But Johnson said democracy will be served in the election without any recounts. "Mistakes will be made in Democratic and Republican counties, and those will cancel each other out."

As the march reached Franklin Street, Brook encouraged pedestrians to join the rally. "Put the latte down and come fight for democracy," he said as the group passed Starbucks Coffee.

Several pedestrians joined the march briefly, and further support was given by honking car horns and a crowd of students cheering for Al Gore out a second-story window of Peabody Hall.

The event was among hundreds of similar rallies held in 144 cities nationwide. After the march concluded, several participants drove to Raleigh to participate in another rally, albeit one with a lower turnout, at N.C. State University.

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Margaret Swezey, a Chapel Hill resident who marched at the UNC rally, said the combined efforts of all the rallies would send a strong message to those governing the counting procedures in Florida.

"It's a huge voicing of public opinion generated spontaneously and without leaders."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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