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Groups Gather for Protests as Gorbachev Begins his Day

June 4, 1990

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) _ Capitalism reared its head at Stanford University today, as students scrambled for the last remaining tickets to see Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and the wealthy offered fistfuls of cash for those ducats.

Students Erik Jorgensen, 21, and Alex Levy, 20, stood in line from 2 a.m., hoping for a shot at tickets that had not been picked up. A lottery had been held to distribute 1,700 seats for Gorbachev’s talk, and 6,000 other tickets to the rest of the events on his university visit.

″Gorbachev probably would have felt right at home this morning,″ said Jorgensen. ″The lines we stood in were very much like the food lines in the Soviet Union.″

They decided to hang on to their tickets, but a friend sold his for $425 to a San Jose doctor, Jorgensen said.

The university set up an official computer lottery system to distribute the coveted tickets May 29, but free enterprise immediately florished with talk of scalping tickets for as much as $1,800 apiece.

Two sophomores, Jeff Vierling and Marlowe Johnson, said they had heard the top price was $1,800. They could only attest personally to a $1,400 sale.

Vierling, a 19-year-old electrical engineering major, and Johnson, a 21- year-old international relations major, sat on a curb today with a sign asking for serious offers only. They told those who stopped they wanted $1,000 or more for each of their two tickets.

″It’s airplane tickets. It’s a lot of things. It’s a CD player,″ said Vierling.

Added Johnson, who wants to finance a European trip: ″I can probably see him better on TV.″

Stanford officials programmed computers to randomly decide who among the university’s staff and students would attend the events. Students accounted for about 60 percent of the winners’ list, which was published in university publications.

However, students were allocated only 550 seats in the 1,700-seat memorial auditorium for Gorbachev’s speech. The other were divided among faculty, staff, dignitaries and the media.

Five thousand ticket-holding members of the Stanford community were allowed to pass through security lines to see Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, greeted by Stanford President Donald Kennedy and former Secretary of State George Shultz.

About 550 others were allowed access to the cordoned-off lawn of the business school to watch as the Soviet president was escorted to the auditorium for his scheduled half-hour speech.

Students, gawkers and Soviet security guards gathered outside Stanford’s Memorial Auditorium several hours before Gorbachev was scheduled to arrive.

Sonoma resident Robin Nyder said she had a pass to stand near the auditorium - but not to see the speech.

″I told my fiance if I have a choice between shaking his hand and taking a picture, forget the photo,″ Nyder said.

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