[Exposing the Coup]
[Citizens for Legitimate Government, a pro-democracy activist group established to expose the Bush Coup d'Etat and oppose the Bush occupation in all of its manifestations.]
[Opposing the Bush Occupation]


 

Report from Bush Protest in Cedar Rapids, IA

April 15, 2002

 

The temperature was near record high, sunny and in the 80's. I drove to CR with two friends, Lee, who is a member with me in our church's social justice committee, and Linda, who is a hospital researcher who was concerned about Bush's cutbacks in her area of restoring hearing to deaf children.

We arrived in CR about 2:30 PM. and parked several blocks from the U.S. Cellular Center. We had obtained permission from the CR police to be in the Riverfront Park from 3 PM to 4 PM. It was a nice place along the river with grass and shade trees, about as natural as you could expect in a major city. There was a lot of traffic so we had great exposure. We held up 2 signs for the traffic and pedestrians to see. One said, "Jesus is for Peace" and the other said, "Peace and Justice". We also had a handmade quilt peace flag that flew in the strong breeze. No one hassled us at all. We did not even see any police or secret service in the park. We were about 2 1/2 blocks from the U.S. Cellular Center where Bush was speaking. Many motorists gave us either a thumbs up or peace sign. Only one fellow on a Harley-Davison motorcycle made a negative gesture.We must have been on a school bus route because several buses came by and the kids were great, yelling encouragement, waving and giving us peace signs. We were interviewed by the Daily Iowan newspaper and KCRG television. We explained that we were there to show opposition to Bush's unending war plans, to the lack of enforcement of pollution laws under Bush, to Bush's tax breaks for the rich and cutbacks in programs for children's health, education, environment, etc. We stayed in the park until 4 PM. At the most there were never more than 10 protestors there total but it was a very positive experience overall. The other protestors had several different signs. One group concentrated on opposition to the way Bush conducted the 2000 election. Their signs read "Bush Cheated", "Jail to the Thief" and "Selected not elected". Another group was also protesting the war and military expansion. They had a sign that said "No war for Oil". The only distraction at the park was a noisy helicopter that hovered overhead several times. I could not see any markings but assume it was a police or secret service helicopter. I hope it was not there because of us because that would be a terrible waste of resources monitoring a few people with cardboard signs in a park.

At 4 PM we walked up to the U.S. Cellular Center on the sidewalk. There were large construction machines parked everywhere around the Center I guess in order to thwart an attack. It seemed excessive to me. I have been to numerous events like this before. When Clinton or Gore came there was never anything like this and on a day like this they would have spent a lot of time outside talking to people and shaking hands. I suppose you could blame 9-11 except that Bush has always campaigned like this, even before 9-11. A police person stopped us about 1 block from the center and politely explained to us the the SS had designated a "free speech zone" by some railroad tracks behind ( south ) of the center. There were a lot of people arriving in formal attire for the $250 - $10,000 a plate dinner. ( If you wanted to sit by Bush or talk to him you had to pay $10,000 i.e. buy influence ). The people in 3 piece suits were never approached by the police or SS but simply walked up to the center. I thought to myself that a terrorist wearing this kind of attire could have gotten very close - it seemed like a very superficial way to screen people.

I was opposed to this idea of a free speech zone designated by the government. I have always felt that the entire country was a free speech zone since it says that in the U.S. Constitution. But I wanted to obey the law so we went over to the "zone". The way this zone was set up showed a lot of irresponsibility and partisanship by the SS. There were about 100 protestors here which they tried to squeeze onto a small plot of grass approximately 20' wide by a railroad tracks surrounded by cement barricades. I do not know what the train schedule was but if a train had come by I would not have been surprised if some people had gotten hurt. Basically in their apparent zeal to restrain demonstrators in a place that was uncomfortable and not very visible the SS endangered these people's lives unnecessarily. In all the years I have attended political events I have seldom seen a group of people treated this shabbily.

I would say about half the crowd were pro-Palestinian demonstrators. They were a bit on the loud side, but considering what is taking place in the Mideast I suppose their emotion was understandable. I really don't take sides in that issue - as I can see problems with both sides ( i.e. suicide bombers on the Palestinian side and overly violent, oppressive Israeli army actions on the other ). There were also people there from the Sierra club protesting Bush's anti-environment policies. There was one woman protesting Enron and the way Bush raided the social security system. About 25 - 30 people were protesting the war, about half of these were doing so out of religious beliefs and the others out of humanitarian concerns. The group that had signs about the 2000 election also came there.

About half the crowd of 100 people stayed inside the SS zone. The other half, out of practicality ( no room, uncomfortable conditions ) milled around to the east of the zone on the sidewalk. The police were very polite. They seemed to realize that the zone was poorly planned and basically let people wander out of it. A couple times they requested that people step off the sidewalk. A few people complained to the police about the zone. The CR police listened and were polite. Across the street stood a bevy of SS men who are always quite obvious with their ear phones, etc. There were several plain clothes people, who were only slightly less obvious. They wore Hawaiian shirts and jeans as I recall - I am guessing they were supposed to blend in with the demonstrators but they pulled this off poorly. It did not help that they occasionally wandered over and talked to the more obvious SS men in 3 piece suits.

At one point one of these suited SS came over to the zone with a camera. It was kind of disconcerting because out of the crowd of people he walked up in front of me and took my picture. I thought about offering to autograph it for him, but decided against. I am not sure why this took place. Perhaps it was because I helped organize the rally and they wanted to identify me. Perhaps they just wanted a picture of the crowd and I am being a bit paranoid or egotistical in thinking he focused on me.

I would give the CR police a grade of "A" for handling the entire situation well. They showed a lot of professionalism and common sense, especially in not enforcing the zone boundaries too aggressively. I think someone could have been hurt had they done so ( or had a heat stroke crammed in there like sardines ). Some of the protestors were a little much - loud but not disorderly. They irritated me at times and I was a protestor! I heard one shout "Bush sucks" several times. When he approached me after that I said I thought we ought to "keep it clean", however I can understand his point of view in thinking that "Bush sucks" considering this administration's poor record in regards to about every issue any intelligent person should be concerned about.

I would give the SS a grade of "D". They have obviously become politicized under Bush. They are taking their proper role of protecting the President and expanding that to include restricting the free speech rights of the administration's opponents. In my view they picked a "free speech zone" that was intentionally uncomfortable, cramped and poorly visible in order to diminish the effectiveness of demonstrators. That might be a practice that was acceptable in the old USSR, but it it is totally unacceptable in a democracy. They also are so focused on disparaging peaceful, non-violent protestors that they are probably allowing security lapses elsewhere. I think that agency needs to be revamped. I am probably somewhat bias however since my first experience with the concept of secret service was watching my boyhood hero, JFK, get assassinated in Texas; an event which could have been prevented with modest security procedures.

As I mentioned before I have attended many political events and I would say that the contrast between Bush and many of the others is amazing. People like Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore waded into crowds and talked openly with people. Bush's style is a completely orchestrated and controlled photo op. The press fell for this almost entirely with little question of what Bush said in the media and very little coverage of dissidents ( protestors ) in actual coverage. One example I can think of is this: April 15 is "tax day". Bush spent much of his appearance lauding "his" tax cut for ordinary working families of $300/$600 and what people had done with this rebate. In actuality Bush had little or nothing to do with the rebates which were a proposal of Senate democrats like Tom Harkin, who Bush was in town raising money to defeat. In the tax compromise Bush pushed for large cuts in inheritance tax, capital gains, etc. for the wealthy. It was the Senate democrats who got the $300/$600 rebates for working class families, not Bush. The press totally missed this distinction, tripping over themselves to give Bush and Ganske free air time for their photo op.

Overall I enjoyed the experience, especially the time I spent in the park talking with Linda and Lee and waving peace signs back to the school children. I think it was a worthwhile way to spend my "personal" day. I have always thought that the reason many bad things happen in this world is because ordinary people do not speak up and express opposition. It is my view that many of Bush's policies are destructive vis-a-vis the military, war, pollution, protecting wilderness, aiding the poor, funding health care and education, handling the economy, protecting Constitutional rights, etc. I feel that the reality of these poor economic and foreign policies will eventually become so obvious they will be hard to ignore. For my part I have tried to do my best to oppose them in a peaceful, positive and non-violent manner.

Bert Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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