Limited parking, high-priced textbooks, and increasing tuition costs are not the only problems Glendale College students face.
The walk from a parking lot, a bus stop, or anywhere else to class can be just as troubling maybe even more so.
This was the case for psychology major Desiree Rodriguez. She was walking to class one day when a member of the Lyndon LaRouche campaign approached her.
Lyndon LaRouche is an eight-time U.S. presidential candidate. He has been vying for the office in every election since 1976 under various political parties, according to cbsnews.com. In 1992, he ran his campaign from prison, serving time for tax evasion and failing to pay back his supporters more than $30 million in loans.
Rodriguez was intrigued by what the young activist had to say about LaRouche and his politics. Although she had to leave to go to class, she told him she would come back later.
She said: “When I came out of class, he stopped me again and I said that I couldn’t talk to him because I wanted to take my bus that was leaving. He insisted that I write down my home phone number even though I didn’t want to. I didn’t think much of it at the time.”
When he called her later that evening, they conversed for two hours. “I didn’t say much,” she said, “because I’m not really into politics.” He kept her on the phone, speaking vigorously about his candidate, and he cut her off every time she tried to ask a question or make a comment. Eventually, Rodriguez had to end the conversation because it was getting late.
At around the same time the following evening, the phone rang. It was him again. This time, she said, he wanted her to attend a meeting his organization was having in nearby Eagle Rock. When she told him she could not go, his friendly tone suddenly changed.
Said Rodriguez: “He started being very judgmental when I said my mom would have disagreed with me going … he called me a baby … said that I was like everyone else, unwilling to help. He offered to take me himself, but my mom would have had a problem with that too because she doesn’t know him. She doesn’t approve of that sort of thing and I agree with that.
“He ignored my situation and asked if she was home. When I said she wasn’t, he tried to get me to tell him my address so that he could pick me up. I kept telling him I was no longer interested, but he kept trying to get my address.”
Appalled by the situation, she hung up.
The next day, the phone rang once again. Her mother, Rosalie Rodriguez, answered. It was another member of the LaRouche team. This time, her mother was being persuaded to support their cause. Also, the LaRouchie on the other end was trying to persuade her to let her daughter attend future meetings. “Some girl was trying to compare my mom to her mom,” said Rodriguez, “saying that… she needs to let me make my own decisions…that we were not children anymore.”
Her mother said: “I told them to go to hell. You have to get tough with those people. My daughter is a good girl and when they see that (people being nice) it’s like blood in the water for them; they’re like sharks.”
The calls continued for a few more days thereafter. Rodriguez and her family stopped picking up the phone when they saw a number they did not recognize on their Caller I.D. service. Finally, the harassment stopped.
Such interest groups are often waiting for students on and off campus, trying to get others to rally behind their cause. They take advantage of the fact that students come to college with a thirst for knowledge; that they want to learn more about the world around them.
The Lyndon LaRouche campaign and its members are notorious for this sort of conduct on college campuses, calling for a domestic program reminiscent of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and a return to a manufacturing-based economy.
Yet, at the same time, they support a candidate who Don Fowler, former national Democratic Party chairman, says is “not a registered voter … (and) has an extensive written record of racist and anti-Semitic opinions,” according to cbsnews.com. Furthermore, he has proposed a quarantine on people infected with AIDS, has accused Queen Elizabeth II of dealing drugs, and believes that the U.S. government is trying to kill him and has attempted to do so in the past. He describes the incident in his pamphlet, ” ‘Convict Him Or Kill Him’ The Night They Came To Kill Me.”
Nidal Kobaissi, police specialist with the GCC Police Department, said that within the last year, a number of students have come forward to complain about the group.
“They have come to us because they don’t like what they’re hearing … (or) are being physically blocked from their path,” said Kobaissi.
The PCC Courier, the student newspaper for Pasadena City College, ran a story with an interview of a former LaRouche supporter who dropped out of school and became a full-time recruiter.
He said: “The group targets maladjusted, unhappy and confused young people who feel they don’t belong … (and) become their ‘friends’ and give them a cause.”
“They call you every night, sometimes two times a night,” he said. “If the people they are trying to recruit are being difficult, they harass them even more … the more I argued the more they were brainwashing me.”
Once individuals become involved with the group, he said, recruiters tell them to cut off all ties with family and friends.
A Glendale College student, who chose to remain anonymous, once encountered a LaRouche recruiter on the bridge. “He told me that the system didn’t work,” he said, “that college was a waste of time … that I should drop out and join up with the LaRouche squad.” The group gets people going, he said, by insulting President Bush and his policies, yet never makes it clear what LaRouche himself stands for. Also, he said that they keep changing from one topic to the next in order to “shut people up.”
The Daily Californian, an independent newspaper produced for students at UC Berkeley, recently wrote a story about the organization. “The movement,” said staff writer David Cohen, “has collected about 100 young people from Los Angeles to Oakland, mostly through tabling on university campuses,” according to www.dailycal.org.
Worldhistory.com reports that many young people who get involved in the movement “have disappeared and are still missing.”
United Cultural Council Vice President David Diaz, member of more than nine student clubs on campus (some of which include Students Against War, Students Against High-Priced Books, and Save Our Classes Club), says, “you have to tell them to back off and harass them back.” He suggests advising them that a cadet or a police officer on campus can be easily notified if they do not cease and desist. Another option, he said, is to just walk away.
Said Kobaissi said: “If you see their signs, just avoid the confrontation. If they don’t have anyone who is interested, they’ll go some place else. Also, don’t give them your phone number … once they have it, they’ll keep calling. I would never give just anyone my number.”
“If there’s a harassment issue on the phone, file a report with your local police department,” Kobaissi said.
If what they have to say sounds too interesting to pass up, go ahead and talk to them. However, do not take everything they say as fact. Read a newspaper, watch the news on television, or ask someone who has had experience with them questions.
Rodriguez advises against looking on the Web. “I did a search on Google and Yahoo,” she said, “and most of the sites that mention him are run by his campaign.”
It cannot hurt to get a second opinion after all.