Protests follow Bush to Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE – Huddled under rainhoods and umbrellas beneath the cold October rain, several hundred assembled here on a dead-end street a few hundred yards outside the Italian Community Center to express their outrage at George Bush.

As they chanted and listened to speakers denounce the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq, and Bush’s knack for fibbery, Bush stood somewhere behind the walls of the center and a small battalion of security (snipers, seven mounted police, a dozen police motorcycles), speaking to supporters at a $2,000-a-plate luncheon. The demonstration was the second of the day as angry crowds shadowed Bush from event to event.

Earlier, Bush lauded the nation’s economic gains at the Midwest Express Center while outside laborers protested the 33rd consecutive month of job losses since Bush was inaugurated 33 months ago. The noontime protest was larger, reaching about 600 at its peak.

The Bush campaign reported that the visit had netted $800,000 for Bush’s “re-election” fund, but many of those who had gathered to protest Bush insisted that he had yet to be elected once. “He wasn’t elected” in 2000, said Kelly Lundeen.

As donors exited the scene, protesters pointed to them and chanted “$2,000 whore!” If that chant seems not to make sense – prostitutes receive money, not pay it – the protesters could justly claim to have gotten it right. Local activist Robert Miranda told the noontime rally that whatever his incapacities in other areas, Bush “really knows how to take a national crisis and make millions of dollars for his friends.” Miranda said America needed to “take all these robber barons out of government and put them where they belong and that is in jail.”

Protesters showed a good deal of political development. Lundeen described the Bush administration’s conduct of an “economic war” against poor nations to match its “military war.” The rally ended with the chant, “George Bush, kiss my ass; I won’t fight for the ruling class.” Some in the crowd carried signs for Democratic challengers Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, while youths with bandanas over their faces sported pins supporting gay rights and gun control.

But the Bush administration seemed to have tapped a fresh vein of anger and brought out new faces with his numerous lies in office. A huge bedsheet banner depicted Bush’s “web of lies,” and many of the signs and chants emphasized a White House run amok with the telling of untruths. “When Clinton lied, no one died” and “Fire the liar” read some signs.

But Mike S., who protected his identity out of concern for what “the criminal in the White House” might do, said “If people are smart, he’ll be kicked out of ... the office he stole in the first place. … Yes, I truly do [think that will happen]. I’m going do my part and get the message out, get as many African Americans as I can to the polls. ... We’ll get him out in ’04.”

Speaker Arthur Heitzer of the National Lawyers Guild said the short-notice, closed-door Bush event, with protesters kept well back, had become standard for the administration. He said that notice of Attorney General John Ashcroft’s appearances had been cut from 24 hours to 12 hours to avoid visible public reaction. “They’re running scared,” Heitzer said.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org