Sarah Palin on Friday was the darling of a $500-a-plate dinner at California State University, Stanislaus. But outside the gala, a crowd of protesters memorialized her as "Bush in Lipstick," a "Liar, Quitter, Master Manipulator" and "Sinister Sarah."
"We'd rather have Tina Fey," read another sign referring to Palin's Saturday Night Live impersonator.
About 100 protesters with signs, banners and bullhorns snaked from a nearby park through campus, with news vans and clusters of reporters following closely.
"What's for dinner?" came a voice over a bullhorn, "Polar bear!"
"Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Sarah Palin, go away," others chanted in unison.
The crowd of Palin protesters clashed with tea party activists at the university's entrance on Monte Vista Avenue, prompting heated arguments in the crosswalk as police tried to push people back using barricades. Drivers carrying patrons in tuxedos and evening gowns struggled to squeeze through the throng.
"I was really disturbed by the protests about her," said Dorothy Walker, 63, of Turlock, whose sign read "CSUS Grad, Tea Party Patriot, Welcome Sarah."
"I couldn't afford the dinner, otherwise I would've been the first in line for a ticket," she said.
Palin's Turlock appearance has generated national news coverage and widespread criticism since it was announced in March. University officials have refused to divulge the terms of the former Alaska governor's contract with the school's nonprofit foundation or her speaking fee for the event.
Lynne Prater, 47, of Stockton said Palin should have donated her speaking fee — believed to be $75,000 — to the university, which has suffered a slate of painful budget cuts in recent months. Palin has pulled in fees as high as $100,000.
Prater said she finds Palin's message "offensive" and said she will redouble her efforts to make sure it doesn't gain more traction.
"She's the antithesis of the modern feminist," Prater said.
Stanislaus State graduate Alexandra Hoffmann said she didn't think Palin was the right choice to celebrate the university's 50th anniversary.
"I think it should have been someone esteemed in the academic world, on the left or the right," Hoffmann said.
The protest began early in the afternoon at Rotary Park, with music, speakers and a Sarah Palin look-a-like pinata.
One man was at the park to speak up for the former GOP nominee for vice president.
Doug Farrow, 69, of Modesto circulated among the crowd, advocating for less taxes, smaller government and Arizona's anti-illegal immigration law.
"I hear a lot of Palin bashing," he said. "I think the tea party is right on."
Farrow's calls led to a few spirited exchanges with those there to criticize university leaders for hiring Palin.
"He believes in the issues I hate the most. When you have someone driving a wedge between all of us it makes it more difficult," said Lucio Reyes, 59, of Stockton.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337.