Protesters repeat call for Bush to step down
David Thompson was on his way to work on Sept. 11, 2001 when hijackers overpowered crews on several passenger planes and flew them into the Pentagon, the Twin Towers and an open field in Pennsylvania. The airline pilot did not end up flying on the day that changed the country and the industry in which he works.
Unlike an unlucky handful of his colleagues, Thompson survived the day physically unscathed, and his liberal politics emerged from the tragedy and its aftermath intact, too. He had the opportunity to wear them on his sleeve on Oct. 5 when he marched through downtown Greensboro alongside about 100 other protesters as part of a national campaign to oppose the Bush administration. The march was the first political protest for Thompson, who served in the Navy for 12 years. He said he marched out of concern for the future of a country he thinks is heading in the wrong direction.
“My position is that we shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” Thompson said about Iraq. “It’s not foreign fighters over there; the Iraqi people themselves don’t want us there.”
Opposition to the Iraq War ran high in the group that assembled at the corner of Eugene and Market streets on Thursday evening. Protesters cinched orange armbands around their sleeves to signify their disapproval of recent legislation that allows President Bush to permit all but the most extreme interrogation techniques.
The crowd skewed young, with heavy representation from UNCG and Guilford College. UNCG freshman Josh Norman said he came out to make his voice heard, but said he was not fanatically opposed to the Bush administration.
“I don’t approve of a lot of aspects of what he’s done,” he said. “And he’s done too many things wrong for me to remain silent.”
On the Iraq War, Norman said he supported the president when he portrayed the conflict as a means to prevent the Iraqi deployment of weapons of mass destruction. He became disillusioned with military action in the country when the weapons never materialized.
But not all the rhetoric was devoted to Iraq. Speakers discussed topics like the political assault on abortion, the Hurricane Katrina aftermath and US support for Israel in its recent disputes with Palestine and Lebanon.
Scott Trent, one of the local World Can’t Wait organizers, told the crowd that their actions coincided with more than 200 such protests happening worldwide. In Greensboro, a handful of UNCG students walked out of class at 11 a.m. and set up booths on campus displaying what Trent described as Bush’s crimes.
“We want to keep things chill,” Trent said about the march itself.
Protesters in a World Can’t Wait rally on the night of the State of the Union address earlier this year clashed with police over their surveillance practices. That night ended with seven arrests, and police doused at least one bystander with pepper spray.
For the Oct. 5 event, Trent and Tim Hopkins secured proper parade permits and enlisted the help of the police to block traffic during the march. The evening passed without incident, even though the police department assigned an officer to videotape the event.
“That’s not unusual,” said Capt. Robert Flynt of the Special Operations Division. “We film most major events. A lot of people think it’s only for criminal identification, but we also use it for our planning process.”
The night’s final speaker, Gold Star mother Summer Lipford, thanked the police for protecting the crowd. Lipford lost her son Steven Sirko in Iraq and told the crowd about her anger toward Bush. Because of a policy that forbids the unloading of flag-draped coffins from airplanes during the day, her son’s remains sat in hold on the tarmac for several hours after returning from Iraq, she said.
“If the people of this country were allowed to see how my son left the country,” Lipford said, “then why could the people of this country not see how my son was returned to me?”
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