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Activist Finds Avenue for Protest

by Brian Morelli

Standing in front of the White House, David Goodner and a group of 20 Iowans unfurl a banner declaring "God forgive America" and begin to read Sermon on the Mount. Police seal off the area, move in and arrest them for protesting without a license.

That 2006 episode was the first of four civil disobedience arrests for the 27-year-old University of Iowa senior, including twice in Sen. Charles Grassley's office for refusing to leave and once in Sen. Hillary Clinton's Des Moines campaign office. While he is not proud of it, the City High alum says he is not ashamed, either.

"To me, the war in Iraq is the biggest criminally wrong human rights violation in the world today. It's a symptom of the larger disease of capitalism," Goodner said. "I thought if people are fighting and dying in Iraq, the least I could do is take a stand, even if it is just symbolic."

A self-described rebel without a cause in high school, Goodner found his cause rallying people for social justice. Whether you agree with him or not -- and plenty don't -- the Iowa City native is devoted.

"As individuals, we don't have a lot of power, but when you bring people together, you have power," Goodner said.

Goodner wears many hats. He takes 17 credit hours in pursuit of an international studies degree; works part-time in the geography department; blogs daily for The Des Moines Register and is on the paper's Young Adult Board of Contributors; and as a leader of the UI Anti-War Committee has helped organize several political demonstrations.

Goodner expects at least 200 people to rally against former senior Bush Administration advisor, Karl Rove when he comes to speak on campus next Sunday . Goodner said he is urging his group not to interrupt during the event.

"I don't think Rove has the right to speak; he has the right to remain silent," Goodner said. "But there are a lot of people that want to hear what he has to say. We wanted to respect what (UI Lecture Committee) was doing."

Politically inactive in high school, he started paying attention to international politics after Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. One day in 2002 in the Iowa Memorial Union, Goodner passed a table of people protesting the pending Iraq War, and "on a whim" signed up for a trip to a protest in D.C.

"I went to D.C., and started hanging out with pacifist hippies and radical socialists," Goodner said. "I was hooked."

He has been back to D.C. about 10 times since to protests of up to 500,000 people. He also has participated in 10 protests in Chicago and many in Iowa. He spends about two hours a week tabling -- dispersing information -- two hours posting leaflets and two hours at meetings.

Goodner said he can tell he is getting through because more and more people are joining his cause. For example, the first time he was arrested at Grassley's office, he was with about 30 people; 11 were arrested. The second time, 75 people occupied Grassley's and Sen. Tom Harkin's office.

"We grew the movement. It's not about getting arrested it's about growing the movement," Goodner said.

Through his activism, Goodner has allied himself with veteran protestor Frank Cordaro, a resigned Catholic priest and a member of the Des Moines Catholic Worker charity house.

"He is one of those folks in his generation who is taking a lead," Cordaro said. "Justice from the bottom up, he has an instinct for that. To be a social change agent, he knows you can't just talk the game -- you've got to walk it."

There are plenty of people who disagree with Goodner's tactics.

James Eaves-Johnson, who writes the blog From Right 2 Left on the Press-Citizen's MyP-C site, is one of Goodner's critics. The registered Democrat said Goodner is an "apologist for tyrants," and his protesting is "counterproductive" and an attempt for self-publicity.

"My opposition to him is less about the war particularly, but against his general approach to things," Eaves-Johnson said. "I think he incites a lot of hatred, not intentionally, necessarily."

"When I find myself agreeing with the bottom line he is going after, I wish he was on the other side," the Iowa City man said.

Goodner has developed a thick skin to deflect the criticism, such as when people call him "unpatriotic" or tell him "get a job" or "get a life." He plans to continue down this path.

"My dream job would be being a journalist for 'The Nation' magazine. Either that, or I'll be in federal prison somewhere," Goodner said.

Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved.

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