Bush protested in Pittsburgh, Labor Day, 2002:

Report from the Front, by Georgene Gallo

When george bush visited Neville Island on Labor Day, ostensibly to speak to a local branch of the Carpenters' Union, it was another political opportunity for the fraudulent president and an opportunity for regular folks to jeer him as his cavalcade passed by on Grand Avenue.

In advance, the local TV news cautioned people not to dare try to park on Neville Island, warning that cars would be towed if they ignored the warning. But we went to Neville Island to protest. We found parking places; we weren’t towed. One usually vacant lot had a hand-lettered sign saying simply "parking." It’s nice to think that the owner of the property was anonymously helping those who came in opposition to bush.

Even though we were a little short of adding up to four dozen, we were loud. Nine state troopers kept watch over us, barricaded as we were behind the chainlink fence that surrounds the War Memorial Park on the Island. We didn’t wonder why it was that hundreds of onlookers were allowed to line the street through which the bush cavalcade would pass. We knew it was because we had signs of protest and those lining Grand Avenue were rallying in support of bush.

Our group represented all ages, from children (with parents) up to protesters in their seventies and eighties. There were members of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Social Justice, affiliates of the group founded by Mike Rectenwald, Citizens for Legitimate Government, an online editor who had traveled from Erie, PA, and more. One woman (with no affiliation--only outrage against bush) brought bullhorns along and shared them, especially with two young women who had a talent for extemporaneous, anti-bush rapping.

The troopers guarding us, it should be noted, were respectful (aside from tacitly approving our loss of civil rights when it came to our imprisonment in the fenced-in area). A few asked us how we were doing--did anyone need water? A few tried to hide smiles when our chants amused them.

For a while, there was a photographer on the other side of the fence taking pictures of our group. After a time, he asked the troopers if he could move on, down the street, to get closer to the pro-bush crowd. Sure, one of the troopers said. "You’re free." Meaning, we knew, that we were not.

We said good-bye to the troopers when it was over, and thanked them for not shooting us. "You didn’t do anything," was the response. They left it to our imaginations what would have happened had we misbehaved, which of course we never had any intention of doing.

As usual, the news reports on the day after got it wrong. In today’s edition, within the space of one small photo caption, our numbers were under-reported, our affiliations were presumed, and the park itself where we had rallied was misnamed.

Can 40 dissenting citizens make a difference? The answer is yes if our protest touched the hearts and minds of passing motorists and pedestrians. The answer must be yes if we are to remain a democracy.

Georgene Gallo
Pittsburgh, PA
September 3, 2002

 

  

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