Thursday, August 8, 2002

War protesters, residents look for Bush

Published in the Current

Supporters of President Georg e W. Bush and those critical of his policies lined Black Point Road Aug. 3, hoping to catch a glimpse of the president and show their feelings.

The largest group was between 60 and 80 protesters of all ages, organized by Peace Action Maine and the Maine chapter of Veterans for Peace. The main theme was “no new war in Iraq,” according to Greg Field, the executive director of Peace Action Maine.

“The administration is clearly moving towards war,” Field said. He urged the government to seek other alternatives to economic sanctions and bombing. “Support for the people of Iraq is not support for Saddam Hussein,” Field said.

The protest was originally scheduled to take place at the corner of routes 77 and 207, but was moved, at the request of Scarborough police, to the driveway of the Scarborough Sanitary District, opposite the entrance to Scarborough Beach State Park.

Field said he had no objection to being moved closer to the presidential event, and said the police had also told protesters to stay on one side of the road, rather than lining both sides.

Field said a number of Bush administration decisions needed more attention, including plans to invade Iraq. “Terrorism is impossible to fight by landing troops,” Field said, charging Bush with “using the tragedy of 9/11 as a pretext” for attacking Saddam Hussein.

He also said new laws intended to increase domestic security needed review. “The Bush administration isn’t making us more secure,” Field said.

He suggested the government enter negotiations with the Iraqi government to deal with the poverty in that country, and to begin economic development programs in Iraq.

Elizabeth, a protester from Cape Elizabeth who asked that her last name not be used, said she opposed military action in Iraq. “I don’t think it’s a good solution to the problem,” she said.

She encouraged the U.S. to send food and medicine to Iraq and back off military spending, as well as working with other world leaders to deal with global social issues.

Jack Bussell of Portland, a retired U.S. Army warrant officer and board member of the Maine chapter of Veterans for Peace, said he wanted to “abolish war as an instrument of foreign policy. ”

Arguing that war should serve a higher purpose, Bussell said, “Veterans have given their lives in battle in the hopes that their sacrifice will advance the cause of world peace.”

He said a huge segment of the U.S. economy serves the military-industrial complex, and suggested that factories convert their production for peaceful means.

“Suppose Bath Iron Works built Stealth hospital ships,” Bussell said, that could be used to “sneak into” foreign harbors and treat sick children.

He said the nation had a “unique opportunity” after Sept. 11 to “step back and look at the causes” of violence and terrorism. He then suggested that the entire nation take a “30-day retreat” to “sit back and look at ourselves,” to answer the question, “what is America all about?”

The protest attracted honks of support from passing cars and peace signs from people in SUVs.

It also found its share of counterprotesters. One man slowly cycled by saying repeatedly, “Anyone wearing petroleum products, please put down your sign.”

Another man ran up and down the line carrying an American flag and a “Steven Joyce for Congress” sign, chanting “We support the president.”

Elsewhere on Black Point Road, people gathered in smaller groups on their front lawns, setting out chairs to try to get a glimpse of the president as his motorcade went by.

And though Bush arrived by boat from Kennebunkport, there was a motorcade of large black SUVs that went down the road, as people waved from the roadside.

One family parked their RV in the front of their driveway, to be able to sit in air-conditioned comfort during the wait for the motorcade.

As the afternoon wore on, Scarborough police, acting at the direction of the Secret Service, closed off a large section of Black Point Road, from the intersection with Route 77. Several Prouts Neck residents, as well as a few guests with invitations to the presidential event, were stuck outside the security blockade for nearly 45 minutes.

Residents and local police officers had been told that morning that residents would be allowed down into Prouts Neck throughout the afternoon, but that changed with a Secret Service directive that traffic should stop whenever the president moved around the event area.

After a wait in which several people got frustrated but remained calm, residents were allowed to proceed down Black Point Road, while would-be beachgoers and others continued to be stopped.

At about 5 p.m., the motorcade made its way back out Black Point Road and headed south on Route 1, again without the president on board.

Released from duty for the afternoon, three Secret Service agents assigned to the president’s father in Kennebunkport grabbed a bite to eat at the McDonald’s in Oak Hill.

Their three black SUVs were parked out front, two with Texas license plates and a third with Maine plates.

“Just trying to catch a quick bite,” one of them said.