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UA students protest policies toward the Strip

TUSCALOOSA (AP) — About 100 University of Alabama students marched down University Boulevard in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday to protest the school's policies toward "the Strip," a popular gathering place that the protesters say is being undermined by administrators.

The group had called on students to leave their classes at 11:30 a.m. for the march and to boycott the university's Ferguson Center and its stores, coffee shops and restaurants all day.

"The university is thinking not what will make the best college experience for the students who pay to go here, but about what will make the most money," Chapin Gray, a 22-year-old from Spanish Fort and head of the protest group, told The Tuscaloosa News in a report on its Web site Wednesday.

The university's actions on the Strip have angered some who think the school is trying to take over the entertainment district.

The university bought a building on the Strip containing two bars and two restaurants last year. One of the bars, the Booth, a 25-year-old student bar and a local institution, has since closed.

"They took The Booth away for no reason," Ryan Barry, a UA senior from Dallas, told the newspaper. "(The protest) just shows you students care about the Strip. We're a part of the community too, and they are just not treating us like a part of the community."

"Hey, hey, Dr. Witt. Don't take away our Strip," went one chant aimed at UA President Robert Witt.

University spokeswoman Cathy Andreen said in a phone interview Wednesday that the administration had no official comment on the protest.

"Our students certainly do have the right to express themselves," she said.

Andreen also declined to comment on the University's plans for the building it has purchased or any other plans for the commercial district.

Tuscaloosa police spokesman Lt. Steve Anderson said the protest was peaceful and no complaints were filed.

Justice Smyth, a senior from Tuscaloosa who is Student Government Association president, said the SGA believed the protest was a poor way to express opinions.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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