Exercising Freedom: Bush Protest
July 4, 2002
Photos by Dave Cooper
On the Fourth of July, Mr. Bush made yet another visit to West Virginia, this time to the central W. Va. town of Ripley. Bush came here, even though he had recently declined a request from West Virginia and Kentucky citizen groups to see first hand the effects of mountaintop removal in southern W. Va. and eastern Ky. His reason he couldn't visit: too
busy (click here
to read the story in Enotes). Too busy to see the devastation wrought by his corporate-engineered, corrupt Energy Policy, but not too busy to stump for Rep. Shelly Moore Capito
(as an official admitted to
reporters), at taxpayer
expense. Of course, we had to protest - to let folks know what the Bush-Cheney-Enron Energy Policy means for our mountains, and to dare to suggest that its time We, the People, reclaim Democracy from Big Business.
The Secret Service said protestors would be herded into a cordoned-off area, out of view of the president and those curious to see him. That is, no Constitutional right to freedom of speech on July Fourth, unless you were in the designated free speech zone. TV stations reported that streets would be closed, so folks would have to arrive very early to get anywhere near where the president was speaking. These rumors made some folks feel like it was useless to make the trek to Ripley. Nevertheless, the protest went on.
Here are some protestors' accounts:
In Ripley, we were challenged by Secret Service (SS) guys, who did not identify themselves. We were not yet in the "secured" area (not the same as the "protest zone") around the court house, but just outside it where
traffic and pedestrians were present. An SS agent invited us to go to a protest area where the media was anxiously awaiting our arrival (no media was there).
I told him, "Thanks for the advisory, but we're quite busy right here." He said we couldn't do this here; there was a law against "protesting on holidays" (first time I heard that one!). I asked if it was a local, state or federal code, and he said "Yeah." I said "Yeah what?" He said "State." I said, "No, it's not, we're busy here, so if you don't mind..." And, they went away, having their bluff called.
Chuck Wyrostok, OVEC and Concerned Citizens Coalition member.
But in fact we were allowed to demonstrate; four of us stood holding up the
Corporate States of America flag
and accompanying banner and handing out our flyers for a good hour inside the enclosure (again, not the protest enclosure, but the "secure" area everyone had to go thru to get near the speakers' podium).
The real question is whether the national media will mention this, or whether it will have the tone of the Charleston Daily Mail piece, which implied that the whole populace of Ripley was SO happy to have Bush visiting-even though they never ran out of parking! Everyone got into that enclosure, which they'd said could handle 8000. The people who were there were a very enthusiastic lot, but I think the major reaction of Jackson County was not like us or that bunch-- it was, "So that fool is coming here. I wonder what that's gonna cost the taxpayers."
The banner, above, read, "Declare Independence from Corporate Rule," which went very well with the Corporate States of America flag, with its sewn-on "Don't Let Our Flag Turn Into This." Bob Hamburg came with his wooden sign with the Stalin quote ("Only the people who count the votes matter") and wasn't allowed in as it had a wooden stake. He set up at the perimeter and is happy that several hundred people read it. He was interviewed on TV and had a few good conversations. Daily Mail reporters also interviewed both Chuck and me, and a couple of reporters whose papers I didn't identify talked to us.
Mary Wildfire, OVEC and Concerned Citizens Coalition member.
RIPLEY- (eyewitness report)- The Daily Mail writer got his "facts" ahead of what actually happened- one can do that when writing about something that hasn't happened yet, but pretending that it has. (the daily Mail article said that protestors were in the cordoned off area. This article was later changed on the DM's website.) I can tell you that the attempt to cordon us into a small area was not successful. Gary Zuckett, Chuck Wyrostock, Larry Gibson and Mary Wildfire all actually penetrated the fenced area (meant only for supporters, not
protestors) and the "security" checkpoint. But State Police physically escorted Gary and Larry back out onto the street when they unrolled and displayed their Stop Mountaintop Removal and overweight coal truck signs
and as Gary was getting signatures on "no truck weight increase" petitions and Larry was handing out MTR-related brochures near where Bush spoke. Chuck and Mary, however, were able to stay in, but were warned to keep Chuck's "corporate" flag down to where folks behind them could see
I stationed myself near the entrance to the security "screening" area and handed out hundreds of our specially designed Independence Day flyers, unimpeded. During Bush's speech I strolled around to the designated "protest area" where we had first been directed (but which directions we all refused). We had been told earlier by SS agents that the press was anxiously waiting for us there. Not a soul was there, no press, no protesters- only some yellow tape that said "CRIME SCENE DO NOT ENTER." Not wanting to disturb a crime scene, I stayed out. Basically, we called their bluff on the designated "protest area" directive, and we won the bluff. I am sorry Gary and Larry were escorted back out of the "secure" area into the street. But no one was hurt, no one was arrested.
Frank Young, Ripley resident
and from an email we received
Subject: Mountaintop remove - Bush visit 7/4/02
I received your notice in my email alerts through a friend. I just wanted to write to those of you that will be out in the heat tomorrow voicing your disgust with Bush and his corporate agenda.....God Bless you all and may angels surround you as you speak.
My name is Karen Chapman, I live in Maryland. I do wildlife advocacy and work on environmental issues - you see Gayle Nortons (Interior Secretary) agenda is the complete opposite of what that position should be. She is silently spreading the approval of oil drilling and the silent distruction of our wildlands. Don't permit this to happen to your fine state of West Virginia.
My mother was from Easton, W.VA, outside of Moundsville. She's been dead 20 years but I still remember visiting my great grandmother and standing in awe of the beauty of that state.
Bush is oil driven and will do whatever it takes (including lying) to "get votes".... I ask you all, as fine people standing up to this "unpopular president" .... please help to get him out of office when elections for the new term arrive.
Did you also know that the Republicans have "voted no" to new voting equipment? Reason being - it can be "rigged" the way it is now (take Florida for an example). Bush did not win presidency by popular vote and he knows his popularity (even among republicans) is moving on a downhill slant rapidly. He'll wine and dine your state to "grab your votes" and then leave you standing with an empty hand and "empty promises".
I hope they televise this visit tomorrow...I and my entire group will be praying for you. Let Bush know that it is the "people of the United States" that should be heard and NOT his demands for corporate america. It is the good American People that pay taxes that keep this great country of ours going....I do believe most of the US will be with you in heart on July 4th. Ring in the peoples freedom and let Bush know he cannot bully you anymore. You need to keep your land safe and coal mining is "not" the way to clean air and safe land.May Freedom Ring for Us All.