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May 08, 1974 - Image 12

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1974-05-08

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Page Twelve

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Wednesday, May 8, 1974

Protest marks Ford appearance

Vice President Ford addresses gradua ting seniors at Criser Arena Saturday.

By GORDON ATCHESON
Vice President Gerald Ford's
quarter-century love affair with
the people of Michigan at least
temporarily turned a little sour
last weekend when the Univer-
sity graduate returned to his al-
ma mater and found the atmos-
phere less than hospitable.
Always the darling of the
state's Republicans and his
Grand Rapids constituents, who
elected him to 13 consecutive

terms in the U.S. House of Re-
presentatives, Ford suffered a
barage of boos, hisses, and ob-
scenities as the keynote speak-
er at Saturday's commence-
ment.
MOST OF the nearly 15,000
people - graduates wearing
druid-like ro b e s, families and
friends decked out in their go-
to-meeting garb - who filled
Crisler Arena politely applaud-

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ed the Vice President.
Yet some members of t h e
audience, several hundred at
most, continually punctuated
Ford's address with derogatory
remarks. And they were joined
by the rest in a deafening out-
burst as Ford attempted to de-
fend President Nixon's decision
to release transcripts in lieu
of actual tapes of controversial
Watergate conversations.
Ford spent most of the day
in Ann Arbor. _Following t h e
graduation ceremonies he a t -
tended a luncheon at the Lea-
gue, returned to his old fra-
ternity house, and paid a visit
to the Bentley Library on North
Campus, where many of his
papers have been deposited for
the past decade.
THE PROTEST, planned days
in advance, began in the hazy
morning sunlight - several
hours before the Vice Presi-
dent's arrival at the arena. The
rag-tag band- bitterly attacked
Nixon and condemned Ford for
standing in the Chief Executive's
corner with numerous pamphlets
and chants.
Ford got inside without much
trouble, but as he stepped to
the lectern, the fireworks were
touched off and the result re-

sounded throughout the build-
ing.
The demonstrators, unfurling
banners and shouting, "F o r d
has the same idea; impeach-
ment is not enough," drowned
out the Vice President's opening
sentence. Members of the aud-
ience who had earlier viewed
the protesters with smiles or
complete disregard erupted.
THE BANNERS were pulled
down and torn to shreads. One
man wearing a suit and tie be-
gan to club a long-haired youth.
The police closed in, pushing the
protesting group back the way
it had come.
The disruptions continued
sporadically after the police
forced the original wave of de-
monstrators out of Crisler -
often with billy clubs - a n d
locked the doors behind them.
Ford seemed unaffected by
the activities directed against
him. He proceeded with h i s
speech, deviating little from the
prepared text and making only
one oblique reference to t h e
protesters.
HOWEVER, the heckling was
the worst he has ever been sub-
jected to, an aide later con-
ceded, and apparently the most
vocal at any University c o m-
mencement exercises - e v e n
those held during the politically
turbulent late 60's.
While the audience as a whole
remained respectful through the
body of Ford's speech - an ex-
tensive and at times obscure

analogy between the Maoist
philosophy and government in
China and the American govern-
mental system - his closing re-
marks on Nixon drew a harsh
response from all corners of the
arena.
"I have every confidence in
the ultimate wisdom and jus-
tice of the American people,
even though that elusive thing
called 'public opinion' may fall
into short-range errors," the
Vice President said as the voic-
es of disagreement started to
rise.
"I CANNOT understand how
anyone can criticize the Presi-
dent for 'taking his case to the
people' unless . ." he stopped
as the crowd drowned out the
sound of his own voice. "Un-
less," he began again, '"'unless
wlat the critic really wants is
to negate the verdict of t h e
people."
Ford added: "I cannot imag-
ine any other country in t h e
world where the opposition
would seek, and the chief execu-
tive would allow, the dissemina-
tion of his most private and per-
sonal conversations with h i s
staff ..."
The symphony of outrage
reached a crescendo but s u d-
denly turned to a tune if agree-
ment as the Vice President fin-
ished the thought: ". . whics,
to be honest, do not exactly con-
fer sainthood on anyone con-
cerned."
See HECKLING, Page 13

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