Silver Chips Online

Protesters rally outside of Blair during speech

Students, community members oppose Social Security reforms

By Grace Harter, Page Editor and Alex Hyder, Online Op-Ed Editor
June 24, 2005
An estimated 400 protesters rallied near the Blair property during a conference held by President George W. Bush to voice their opposition to his proposed plan to reform Social Security. The event was organized by the liberal political organization Progressive Maryland.

Demonstrators gathered at the nearby Woodmoor shopping center, where Tom Hucker, the Executive Director of Progressive Maryland, gave a speech thanking the assembled crowd. In his speech, Hucker called Bush the "worst president in American history." The group marched to the yellow tape perimeter set up around the school at approximately 8:45 a.m., and continued to demonstrate throughout the morning.
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.

The demonstrators, many of whom wore t-shirts emblazoned with anti-Bush catchphrases, chanted slogans to the rhythm of drums, calling on Bush to "privatize this" as Bush supporters clad in suits and ties filed through metal detectors and into the Blair auditorium. While Bush remarked about progressive indexing and privatization in Blair's auditorium, a much less receptive crowd outside continued to voice their opposition.

Ignoring police behests to "stay on the sidewalk," the protesters soon spilled onto University Boulevard and began to march up and down the street, prompting the closure of University's eastbound lanes to accommodate the marchers.

Many Blair students appeared at the rally, eager to voice their concern over the stability of the Social Security program and their opposition to the changes Bush has proposed. Bush's plan would allow future workers to invest a portion of their income in securities. Opponents of the plan say it would put workers' money at risk, leaving some, like senior Nipon Saisaard, to wonder, "When I get old, who's going to take care of me?" Most resented Bush's appearance at their school. Said senior Emma Hutchinson, "I'm here because I think we need to show we don't appreciate Bush trying to push his Republican views on us."

According to John Mahoney, president of the Maryland Association of Young Democrats, admission to Bush's conference was by invitation only and most invitees were not from the Silver Spring area. Mahoney said that representatives of his organization were denied entrance, and wondered, "How you can have a town hall meeting and not invite the town?"
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.

Board of Education member Valerie Ervin, who was present at the rally, disapproved of Bush's decision to speak at Blair. "I think it's just a travesty that he shows up at our school, in our community, and does not invite us." Ervin, the parent of two Blair graduates, saw irony in Bush's choice to appear in one of Maryland's most liberal counties. "Most of the people in my constituency would proudly agree with what's happened here at this protest," she said.

"I think he's a fool. He shouldn't have chosen Blair," Hucker agreed. "We didn't vote for him; we don't want him here." Hucker also resented the use of public funds to provide buses and security for Bush's supporters.

The rally drew diverse support. Aaccording to Hucker, representatives from over 15 local political organizations, including Local 657 of the Laborers' Union, the Maryland chapter of the National Organization for Women and the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop the War and End Racism) coalition were present. Mahoney called the groups in attendance "a profile of the Democratic party's support."

Mahoney welcomed the many students who attended the protest, saying, "It's great all these young people could be out here."

Protest organizers declared the event officially over at 10:10 a.m., but many demonstrators proceeded on to Colesville Road, prompting police to park in a northbound lane until the crowds dissipated at 11.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/5489