Controversial congressman faces GW student protests

Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) condemned the D.C. referendum to legalize medicinal marijuana at a GW College Republicans event and spoke about several other issues while anti-Barr protesters waited outside.

More than 15 members of the GW Progressive Student Union organized a demonstration outside the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre, expressing anti-Barr sentiment to passers-by. According to fliers distributed by rally participants, Barr is a “dangerous man” and a “promoter of destroying democracy.”

The source of the PSU’s emotional protests is Initiative 59, a referendum advocating the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. An overwhelming 69 percent of District residents voted in favor of the referendum. But coordinated efforts between Barr and Congressman Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) shot down the legislation. During a question-and-answer session following Barr’s speech, Barr denounced the initiative, calling it a “subterfuge for the complete legalization of marijuana.”

“I know a little bit about human nature, and the legalization of marijuana will inherently pose a danger to its users and the people around them,” Barr said.

In response to Initiative 59, Barr and Istook drafted a provision in the D.C. appropriations bill. On Tuesday Clinton vetoed the bill that would outlaw the legalization of drugs, specifically marijuana, in any form of use.

Sophomore Shrayas Jatkar, a member of the PSU, said he was dissatisfied with Barr, citing Barr’s alleged association with a white supremacist group as an example of his “destruction of democratic principles.” But Barr said mutual anti-impeachment views sparked his original interest in the organization.

Barr discussed several of what he said were essential issues for the Republican Party’s platform in the 2000 presidential election. Naming U.S. citizens’ privacy as “among the most important issues of the next century,” Barr cited legal government wiretapping and Project Echelon as instances of federal intrusion into personal space. Barr said Project Echelon uses orbiting satellites to intercept personal information sent via phone or e-mail for government use.

“These are things the American public truly needs to know about,” Barr said. “Knowing that the president had sex with Monica Lewinsky is a lot different than asking someone if they’ve heard of Project Echelon.”

Barr said it is important to have true, open debate during Republican Party primaries. Citing a lack of teamwork among Republican Party members, Barr said open debate would “put all the issues out on the table” and let the public hear for itself how candidates feel about health care reform, tax management and foreign policy.

In addition, Barr said efforts were needed to rectify the reeling Israeli-Palestinian situation in the Middle East. Barr endorsed Steve Forbes for the Republican nomination for president.

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