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LOCAL News :: Protest Activity

Protestors Greet Bush at Kingsmill

Peaceful but determined protestors meet heavy security when Bush comes to Kingsmill on the James to woo House Democrats.

It was noon on Feb. 3. Police stood between the demonstrators and the U.S. Presidential motorcade soon to exit from a private, mid-morning meeting between Bush and Democrats from the House of Representatives, whom demonstrators vowed to hold to their election-day mandate to defuse the war in Iraq.

"A patriot is mocked, scorned and hated; yet when his cause succeeds, all men will join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.? — Mark Twain
In the Road 4.jpg
“Don’t. Iraq. Iran.?

Over and over, hypnotically, like a funereal dirge, with the thunk of a drum at the end of each refrain, chanting protestors petitioned their government while a phalanx of armed state police in full riot gear—shields, helmets, and bullet-proof vests—looked on.

While a surveillance helicopter circled overhead, a fleet of a dozen motorcycle police roared in formation out of Kingsmill Rd. to the intersection with Rt. 60, closed now to normal traffic, as several black mini-vans, their windows darkened in official secrecy, followed.

“Don’t. Iraq. Iran.? Thunk.

“Don’t. Iraq. Iran.? Thunk.

Then came the Presidential limo itself, American flags fluttering on either side of the hood and, presumably—for those windows, too, were dark—with George W. Bush inside.

The motorcycles peeled onto the highway, leading the motorcade east toward the Newport News/Williamsburg airport, as more mini-vans, a rescue ambulance, and a rear guard of yet more motorcycle police closed the procession. The widely publicized meeting, held at the House Democrats’ winter retreat at Kingsmill, a luxury resort on the James River deep inside a gated community just north of Williamsburg, was over.

Almost nothing has been reported about what transpired at a closed session with Democrats after Bush’s public televised remarks, which were largely conciliatory and warmly received by his audience.

But about 150 demonstrators showed up to greet Bush—from Williamsburg, Richmond, the Eastern Shore, the Peninsula, the Southside, and rural towns in between. They occupied a wide swath of grass in a gully edging Rt. 60, twenty-five yards or more from the intersection with Kingsmill Rd., where police, respectfully but insistently, held them at bay.

Some milled about in the gully, trading the latest news from the internet or waiting for a turn at the bull horn which served as an open mic for any who had something to say.

Others stood along the highway a foot or two up an incline, eliciting honks and gestures of solidarity—peppered with a few contemptuous social fingers—from many passing motorists.

“There must be five people here who don’t limp!? one elderly man cried out to the line of impassive riot police.

“You’re protecting a war criminal!? shouted Clayton Lory, at the open mic. He and fellow Norfolk “Peace Surge? activist Tom Palumbo had organized the demonstration through e-mail alerts put out four days earlier.

Bush had arrived around 10 a.m. in a roar of internal-combustion power, a shock-and-awe sampler for the homeland which hushed the onlooking demonstrators, staring as one at the extended caravan of passing (gas-guzzling) government cars and vans.

“The dangerous ones are Mr. Bush and anyone beyond that gate in the Democratic Party who supports funding this war,? said Palumbo at the mic after the motorcade entered Kingsmill.

“I want Bush out of office. That’s why I’m here,? said Sunny, a woman from Lanexa, VA, who declined to give her full name. She belongs to a chapter of the Democratic party just formed in New Kent County.

“More and more people are joining,? she says. “That’s very unusual? in her traditionally Republican neighborhood.

“There is no American family values without truth,? said John Baker of Norfolk. “Congress and the Senate should be interested in the truth. You can’t expect families to bring children up right without telling the truth.?

John Tuttle, of Portsmouth, sent a picture of himself holding a protest sign to his brother-in-law, a truck driver with the Army National Guard in Iraq. It’s Tuttle’s way of supporting the troops, he said, while the family waits with crossed fingers for his brother-in-law’s scheduled return in July. “He went in to protect the homeland,? says Tuttle, never expecting he’d be sent on an offensive to Iraq.

At the open mic Martin Freed, an environmental writer from the Eastern Shore, urged others to join him in a chant.

“No more money for the war. What the hell is Congress for??

“The mandate for peace is a message that’s getting into Congress,? said Zanne Joi, a member of Code Pink Women for Peace, “but the bottom line is, it’s up to us.?

Joi left California on Jan. 13, a member of a Code Pink “peace tour? delegation to End War and Occupation. The group travels in a converted delivery truck with the name of Don Quixote’s horse, Rocinante, stenciled on a side panel.

“We must make them uphold the (November 6 election’s) mandate for peace,? Joi said at the open mic, urging people to lean on their representatives to sign on to HR-508, a House resolution introduced by Democrat Lynn Woolsey to bring the troops home and fund Iraqi reconstruction and reconciliation.

Pressure should also be put on U.S. Senators, she said, to support two bills—SB-121, calling for the “redeployment? of forces from Iraq (introduced by Democrats Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold), and SB-233, Ted Kennedy’s bill blocking funding for any escalation of troops above Jan. 9 levels, before Bush announced his surge.

(Joi did not mention “The Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007,? a joint resolution introduced on Jan. 30 by Sen. Barack Obama and Reps. Patrick Murphy and Mike Thompson, which caps troop numbers and sets dates for a phased redeployment.)

To pressure Congress, Joi announced, a coalition of peace groups has formed a nationwide initiative, the Occupation Project, calling on activists to “occupy? the offices of their representatives and senators “until they defund the war.?

Meanwhile, bravely, two counter demonstrators positioned themselves across the highway with a single sign, “Support Bush and Troops.?

“It’s inconceivable you can support the troops and not support efforts at winning the war,? said Vietnam-era Army veteran Clark Richards of Williamsburg.

What’s “lost in the debate,? he said, is that “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Everybody knows that they used them.

“If the terrorists win in Iraq,? he said, “they’ll be emboldened to bring the war to America or to Europe.?

But demonstrator Tom Goodale, retired from the faculty of George Mason University, called for Bush’s impeachment.

“The war is going to cost one or two trillion before this is over,? he said. “It’s cost over a thousand American lives, a hundred thousand innocent Iraqis. Lives trashed, the environment trashed.... He is the worst President in history by far.

“I started out as a moderate Rockefeller Republican, an Eisenhower Republican, but the farther right my old party went the farther left I went to counter them. I still think of myself as moderate.? If his views seem progressive today, “it’s because the center moved, not because I moved.?

“I just hope our Congress has the balls to do the investigations!? said an emotional Rain Burroughs, a Richmond mother.

Soon after the Bush motorcade left Kingsmill, the demonstration broke up, participants promising to meet again at a mass march on the Pentagon on March 17, scheduled to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the Iraq invasion.

On Feb. 5, Project Occupation began, with Code Pink members among ten arrested “occupying? the Washington office of Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, according to news reports, after they sang the names of war dead—75 Arizona service people interspersed among the names of Iraqis.

And demonstrators held vigils of support in downtown Norfolk Feb. 5 and 6, marking the start of Army Lt. Ehren Watada’s court martial in Tacoma, WA, for refusing to deploy with his unit to Iraq.

“There are more of us than they can possibly deal with if people sitting on the fence would just get involved,? said Rain Burroughs. “We won’t do it alone. We need everybody in the streets.?

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