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June 25, 2005

Bush appearance met by protests outside Blair

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
It was over 60 minutes before President George W. Bush was scheduled to speak at Blair as part of his nationwide photo-op tour touting his Social Security plan. But 2005 Blazer grad Luke Hanlein was already present as one of a few hundred protesters rallying against his plan on that issue and the war in Iraq.

"Been here since 8:45," Hanlein said. "We shut the…street down," he commented with an expletive.

Indeed, Montgomery County police closed off the University Boulevard side of Blair, partially as a place for the protestors to gather, but also to shield the President, who was just dozens of feet away in the school.
President George W. Bush speaks in the Blair auditorium on June 23 during an event to promote his Social Security plan.
<i>Click on the photo to view a gallery of the day's events.</i> Alex Mazerov
President George W. Bush speaks in the Blair auditorium on June 23 during an event to promote his Social Security plan. Click on the photo to view a gallery of the day's events.

Judging from the dozens of police officers, Secret Service and the 14-school-bus barricade shielding Blair from the Colesville Road side, one could have thought that Blair was a well-guarded fortress instead of a public school. The cops did keep the crowd under control and peaceful for the most part.

The only skirmishes came around just prior to 11 a.m., when President Bush was about to leave. Sensing this moment, one protester with a bullhorn yelled, "Bush's motorcade is coming! Let's block him!" He was about 25 minutes early on that prediction.

Around 100 of the protesters, to that point confined to University, calmly crossed Colesville Road and stood on the far side of the street, parallel to the exit where Mr. Bush left. Some protesters were holding signs saying "I Love Social Security," but most were upset over the Iraq War. One middle aged woman who crossed the street, a proclaimed "mother of eight," pasted the "Faces of the Fallen," photos of recent deaths in Iraq, from The Washington Post onto cardboard as her sign.

As police shadowed the protesters to make sure none of them tried to make a run at the President six lanes of highway away, about 25 or so zealous teens tried to make their sentiments even more clear by standing on Colesville and blocking three lanes of traffic. Some teens were yelling, "Whose streets? Our streets!" The officers, disagreeing with that statement, shoved back the protesters and then began shoving anyone on the sidewalk, protester or not, with little or no rhyme or reason.

Jane Hurst, a mother of two Blair graduates, she said, came to protest, and while the teens were in the street yelled, "Civil disobedience! If they try to arrest you, go limp!" She was asked why, not just as a protester but also a mom, she thought these kids were testing the officers and why she was seemingly encouraging them to do test the line between a peaceful protest and the backseat of a police car.

She replied, "I don't think they want to be arrested. These people," referring to Bush and other Republicans, "don't want us to be heard. If we have to be arrested for our voice to be heard, so be it." Fortunately, it did not come to that and nobody left in handcuffs.

The woman holding the "Faces of the Fallen" poster was shoved by a Montgomery County officer and was upset at their aggression. "I can't believe cops pushed me!" she said, "I'm so [ticked]! I'm 60!"

As he cooled off following the rally in the pulsing heat and humidity, 2005 Blair graduate Dan Greene commented on the intimidating power of the police officers. "The cops," he said, "all looked like cops from 'Half-Life,'" referring to a popular computer game where the police are heavily fortified machines.

While there were still some protesters on University, all of the loudest opponents of Mr. Bush had made their way to Colesville Road by 10:45 a.m. The crowd cheered mightily any time a passing car gave a honk and a wave or thumbs up of approval to their cause.
President George W. Bush speaks in the Blair auditorium on June 23 during an event to promote his Social Security plan.
<i>Click on the photo to view a gallery of the day's events.</i> Alex Mazerov
President George W. Bush speaks in the Blair auditorium on June 23 during an event to promote his Social Security plan. Click on the photo to view a gallery of the day's events.

Three 18-wheeler trucks honked, proving that a rally can be even more effective than the "pull!" motion when trying to coax a trucker into blowing his horn. A U.S. postal worker honked and waved, sending the crowd into a roar.

While waiting to "greet" President Bush, the crowd yelled various chants, almost all of which rhymed. One or two of the now couple hundred protesters would start a chant, generally about the war, and it would spread to the crowd until they got tired of yelling it, usually in a minute or two.

Around 11, the president's motorcade actually headed south on the northbound side of the road, both to avoid the protesters and a potential 12-car synchronized U-turn in mid-morning traffic at one of the three busiest intersections in the county. When Mr. Bush left, the crowd of protesters on Colesville gave him the one-finger salute and booed loudly. The protesters were unable to see him as he left, but booed and flipped off all 12 cars for safe measure.

As the president left school, the crowd began to cheer, then quieted, and began to disband. What was left for the protesters was a sense of pride in their organization. Jason Meer, a rising junior, said that this protest was all word-of-mouth and "organized in a day."

Around 9:45 a.m., the crowd peaked in size, as Mr. Bush entered Blair to speak, with about "400 people," said Greene, now a volunteer for Progressive Maryland, the group who organized the rally.

In fact, there were signs around Four Corners advertising the rally the same way one might see an underground concert promoted, just from person-to-person. "Rally on Thursday!" one sign taped to a traffic signal at Colesville and West University Boulevard said.

Greene's friend, Phil Kim, also with Progressive Maryland, said that the Rock The Vote organizations and other unions came to protest his social security plan.

But all in all, the protesters were happy with the turnout. "Four hundred people with a day's notice," Greene said. "That's pretty good."



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  • 53N10R on June 25, 2005 at 2:21 PM
    that protest was awesome. great article, nicely written!
  • Annoyed on June 25, 2005 at 3:02 PM
    "The officers, disagreeing with that statement, shoved back the protesters and then began shoving anyone on the sidewalk, protester or not, with little or no rhyme or reason."

    VERY true, my friends and I were shoved, rather harshly, by the police, when we were on the sidewalk, unaware that we were doing anything wrong (we weren't, by the way). And it's not like we were being hostile or threatening, we were a bunch of 16 year old girls just holding up our signs and cheering, not running out into the street, not harassing the police. Some of the officers were polite, calmly asking us to please move somewhere. That was nice, but not all of them were like that. I was so incredibly annoyed. Being there, it was easy to see how peaceful protests in the past could have escaladed to police violence. It was kind of scary, actually....

    Anyway, great article, and a great rally!
  • Dumb Democrats= (View Email) on June 25, 2005 at 4:33 PM
    This article is the most hilarious one I have ever read. Raising signs and yelling at the top of your voices is okay, but standing in the middle of the street is not okay. You are disrupting the many lives of others. Annoyed you might be because of the lack of effect you are causing, but the police are also annoyed at how a group of mature people like you can't even stand on the sidewalk. There are many Americans outside of Maryland that support Bush. More than the ones that oppose Bush. So, you are the minority of the people. Yet, you treat the person supported by the majority of the people as an enemy. Selfish, spoiled group of people.
  • hm on June 25, 2005 at 8:01 PM
    I don't really understand Hurst's view that Republicans didn't want the protesters to be heard...it's not like Bush/Republicans censor the opposition or anything. And, let's face it...they would come off far better expressing their opinions in, say an op/ed as opposed to running around in a parkinglot.
  • re: annoyed on June 26, 2005 at 12:52 AM
    actually, annoyed, you were doing something wrong: jaywalking all over the place, disrupting traffic--and staging the protests without a permit.
  • Curious on June 26, 2005 at 2:33 AM
    All the police officers had black pieces of tape covering their badge numbers. Is that legal? Isn't the point of the badge numbers to keep them accountable? I urge Silver Chips to look into this.
  • cori on June 26, 2005 at 3:42 AM
    Dumb Democrats- just to clarify , Bush doesn't necessarily have the support of the majority of the American people. He has the support of the majority of VOTERS (just barely half the population). There's 50 million unknown votes out there...
  • hm on June 26, 2005 at 1:33 PM
    well if they don't care enough to vote...
  • re: curious -- Samir Paul on June 26, 2005 at 7:13 PM
    I spoke to the police officers about the black tape on their badges. It was not there to cover up their badge numbers; it was there as tribute to a police officer who was murdered in PG county the day before President Bush's appearance. The tape was lawful and completely unrelated to the protests.
  • Dan Greene (View Email) on June 26, 2005 at 11:39 PM
    Hey, Dan Greene here and I just wanted to say that while I love Bushnell and the article overall, a great synopsis of the protest's organization, my comment on the police force present was taken a little out of context. I only meant to remark on the daunting, impressive nature of the police present. Overall, for the portion of the protest that Progressive Maryland was involved with, the police were firm but definitely very accomodating. When we crossed University en masse and marched back and forth, the police obliged by blocking off traffic. They were just looking to keep everybody involved as safe as possible. Rookie demonstrators always have to keep in mind that you are never fighting the police themselves, these officers are for the most part great people with public safety on their minds, you are fighting for a cause or an ideal, the cops are just there to make sure no one gets hurt. A little respect for the police is more than warranted given their obliging nature on Thursday, and especially in light of the state of mourning they were in after the slain officer in PG. Thanks Chips, Sports Staff for Life!
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on June 27, 2005 at 10:07 AM
    I owe Dan an apology for taking that out of context and have tidied up the story so I dont continue to misrepresent what you had said.
  • we know those votes on June 29, 2005 at 12:46 PM
    the 50 million "unknown votes" don't count. If you don't bother to vote, you don't have any right to complain.
  • Dumb Democrats= (View Email) on July 3, 2005 at 3:53 PM
    Cori, you are saying that the 50 million "unknown votes" are not at all represented by the 50 million "known votes"? Statistically, half of the population's vote is good enough to tell the entire story.
  • :| on July 9, 2005 at 12:56 PM
    there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.
  • Ersatz Pundit (View Email) on July 12, 2005 at 1:53 PM
    the whole concept of voting is based on the idea that people want to make sure their voice is heard. If some people don't take the time to vote, then they relinquish that voice, and therefore can't complain. You can't use the opinions of those people in your explanations because they don't want their opinions to be heard.
  • J. on July 15, 2005 at 6:01 PM
    LOOKING FOR aLEX BUSHNELL IF YOU SEE HIM SMACK HIM OKAY!!

    xOxo
  • jay (View Email) on July 18, 2005 at 10:36 AM
    lets hear it for making fascists angry!!!! YAY!!!!!!! republicans get so mad about everything! geez!! ok you cute little fascists give me your angry face!!!!!!!!!!!!
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