It was Unwelcome Bush day in San Jose, Stanford & St Helena in California and I was one happy camper. Bush doesn't come to these parts much, but he braved it on Friday. For the record, I do not want to meet the current president of the US; there is nothing he could say that would make me believe he understands the pain he has caused millions of people in this country. He cannot say anything to make me believe he has given any thought to what a family experiences when their loved one is killed in his ugly war. I don't think he cares, either.
As I said, I was giddy as a school girl going on my first date. I didn't want to meet Bush or see him, but I really wanted to be in a crowd to let him know we're really not that into him here in Silicon Valley. My friends from Gold Star Families Speak Out had done their part to dog Bush and to let him know that he wasn't welcome in their towns, it was my turn now. I brought my big poster sized photo of Ken, it's the Lt Stripes pose, probably a better pose than Bill Murray ever did in Ken's favorite movie, Stripes. I wore my best shirt with the photo of Ken on the front and his headstone from Arlington on the back. That usually gets my message across.
There was a lot of confusion on Friday morning about public transportation or even private transportation. Where would we park, where could we park? I think the SJ PD liked it that way just fine. We were told we couldn't walk down a very public street to our assigned "free speech area". WTF? The police officer at that intersection told us we could still drive through, though we were told we could drive and a fellow protester told us she would drive us. The very minute we got to the intersection, less than 3 minutes later, they closed the road. Okay, take deep cleansing breathes....We drove for a bit more and found ourselves at yet another roadblock. We were very close to our intended target area as the crow flies, but the police officers wouldn't let us through. I reminded them that we were trying to get to a "free speech" area and that we had permits, so would they PLEASE tell us how to get there. After a few moments of discussion, they told us, make a u-turn, go back around, blah, blah, blah...It didn't seem that convincing to me, but there really was no other choice. It was becoming very apparent how much money this presidential visit was costing our town in terms of security. The closest we could get to the "free speech" area, which was really a penned-in street, was about 1/2 mile hike and there was only one way in. As a result, there were several hundred protesters in front of Cisco Systems in San Jose. We heard later that there were hundreds more who weren't there, because they couldn't get there or they didn't even know where there was. I'm sure the San Jose PD was quite happy with this conundrum that they had created. For anyone who actually got there, we earned our way in! We knew we were in the right place when we heard the drumming and chanting and other political commentary. The Liars Anonymous performance courtesy my friend, Jeff.
Many kudos to the people who organized this event in such a short amount of time, especially the folks from South Bay Mobilization. The World Can't Wait, and several more groups were also in attendance. My friends from Mountain View Voices for Peace and Military Families Speak Out were also there. Because of the president's appearance, most every media outlet was in attendance as well.
Although people were still straggling in, the organizers thought it was time to begin with some speeches. I spoke first
Today is the day we unwelcome George W. Bush to San Jose. Today is the day we let him know that the people of the Bay Area are not alone when we say we want our country back....This week when retired generals are calling for the resignation of the Secretary of Defense, the President made it clear once again that he is not listening to the military of the citizens of this country because HE CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!....We still don't know what the noble cause is. Why are we in Iraq? Why is there no exit strategy? When did Peace become a bad word?.....and I ended with PRESIDENT BUSH, GO BACK TO WASHINGTON, YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!
While people from other organizations spoke, many people came up to me afterwards and thanked me for speaking, for being there. One man, a former police officer spoke to me and told me he had been laying low on the peace movement, he was angry about a lot of things, but mostly he was mad at the individual soldiers. I started to interrupt him, but he continued. He told me that he had heard me speak in Palo Alto at the rally marking the 3rd anniversary of the war, about a month ago. He told me how he was touched by what I had to say then and how it impacted him. I think that was why he was at the rally on Friday. Score one more for the peace movement; all of our voices are powerful AND necessary.
None of us really expected to see Bush and we were not disappointed in that. Instead of arriving via limousine, he flew in via Marine One, the Presidential helicopter. While he spoke about his pro-technology agenda with about 250 business leaders inside Cisco, we continued to entertain ourselves with speeches, songs, drumming and general peaceful protesting.
This peaceful gathering did not warrant the overwhelming police presence in San Jose. By my count there were probably 4-5 protesters for each police officer. There were a nearly 20 officers on horseback. And the piece de resistance was the police officer filming each one of us to document our presence. He tried to look subtle, but how can you when you have a videocamera in front of your face?
Bush & Co took off in their helicopters and headed to Stanford. A big high 5 to the students and others who did such a good job of keeping Bush from his intended destination on the campus. Bravo! They did eventually get to the campus home of George Shulz, a former Secretary of State. Bush was not welcome at Stanford, either.
On Saturday morning, Bush took a mountain bike ride after his overnight stay in the wine country. He told a reporter who accompanied him on the ride "I still ride the mountain bike primarily to help settle the soul and to burn off the excess energy one gets when you're living life to its fullest," I'm so happy for him. He's living his life to the fullest, settling his soul. We sir, are trying to end a war and stop the killing, but I'm glad he can find time for a bike ride. This ain't no war president; he just doesn't care. For that matter, he doesn't even pretend to care. Give him a couple of ibuprophen and maybe that'll cure his case of Iraq fatigue.
There were protesters in the Napa Valley and there were protesters in Sacramento. The President was not welcome there, either.
Go back to Washington, Mr Bush, you are not welcome in California. If you come back, we'll greet you the same.
p.s. Happy Earth Day and Happy Birthday to Gary.