News: What Democracy Looks Like

Kept from Bush's speech, protesters gather outside

"Drop Bush, Not Bombs" was the very different battle cry coming from the masses of Cincinnati in opposition to President Bush's Oct. 7 call to arms against Saddam Hussein and, ultimately, the people of Iraq.

As a resident of Cincinnati, one would be completely overwhelmed by the enormous response to the President's visit. About 250 Bush supporters gathered near the entrance to Union Terminal along Western Avenue at 5:30 p.m. They were no match for the impending flood.

Excluded from the movers and shakers chosen by the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce to join Bush's war rally, many protesters formed for a vigil at 6 p.m. at Laurel Park on Ezzard Charles Drive, about a quarter-mile from Union Terminal. Gathering at the park were hundreds of families, students, children, social groups, clergy and all cultures of people young and old. Even Jesus found time to attend, in the form of a 12-foot-tall puppet.

At first, Sister Alice Gerdeman, welcoming newcomers, warned that a few groups of people had gathered along the police barricade at Union Terminal's entrance, without a permit. But the distance from their President did not satisfy these folks, as they were determined to get as close as possible.

Feeling their determination, Gerdeman joined the march toward the barricade, riding in back of a pickup truck outfitted with a public address system to rally the marchers.

The protesters marched while shouting, "Don't attack the people of Iraq," singing "Give Peace a Chance" and waving signs saying, "No More Blood for Oil" and "Iraqis are Humans, Just Like You and I." One sign portrayed the President as a king crowned with a dunce cap.

Arriving at the Interstate 75 overpass on Ezzard Charles Drive, many people placed signs against the fences of the bridge for drivers to see. The signs drew countless honks from cars and trucks as highway lights kept the signs aglow through the night.

The direction of the presidential motorcade was undisclosed to the public for security reasons, but the protesters seemed sure he would not pass them. However, some of Bush's supporters walked in the streets, possibly to avoid confrontation, but to now avail.

Many protesters ran alongside to greet the Bush supporters, then began shouting, "Drop Bush, Not Bombs."

A large group of women from the University of Dayton kept the chants loud and constant, along with many high school students, youngsters and elderly. On the westbound side of Ezzard Charles, musicians put a little dance in the protesting step by forming a bongo drum line.

The waves of protesters grew as the time for Bush's speech drew near. Among those gathered were Cincinnati City Councilman Dave Crowley and his wife.

Lon Coleman, an engineer, estimated that well over 2,000 people had gathered along Ezzard

Charles and at the front of the Western Avenue police barricade.

"From where I was, I could not see the extent of the crowd that extended back on the east and west lanes of Ezzard Charles," Coleman said. "I moved north and south along the west side of Western Avenue at the Ezzard Charles/Western intersection, but could never see the back of the crowd.

"The Bush supporters' numbers never increased, but more protesters just kept coming up to at least 8:15 PM. I was truly impressed at the turnout."

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune was also among the protesters.

"As a public official, I feel it's my duty to be here," he said. "It's quite a turnout."

The protest remained noisy throughout the night, with shouting, sign parading and dancing in the streets to the beat of bongos and soda bottles filled with coins. One man began freak dancing right in front of the police; some of the officers even cracked a smile at his performance.

The President's supporters remained much of the night, despite the thousands outnumbering them. It was difficult to distinguish them, though, since many protesters insisted on mixing with them to drown out their Bush/Cheney signs.

At about 8:20 p.m., as protesters chanted, "No more war, no more hate, we won't be a fascist state," Bush's supporters began to disperse.

Protesters then began occupying Western Avenue in front of Union Terminal, shouting, dancing and holding their signs in the air. The police did not interfere until an hour later, when they began to order everyone out of the streets so backed-up traffic from the north could pass. Due to the constant shouting and beat of the drums, the officers' orders remained unanswered.

Now things began heating up. The police moved squad cars into the crowd from the north end, while positioning horseback officers from the south. Unless the protesters in the streets complied with orders and moved, they would be surrounded.

Undiscouraged, the protesters began shouting "Whose streets? Our Streets!" and "This is what democracy looks like," refusing to move. Some actually sat on the pavement, including Susan Knight, a member of the Coalition for a Humane Economy.

Mounted police began to advance and again ordered the street cleared. Finally, as most obeyed, those who remained were forced out of the way by mounted police, with three protesters pushed toward the cruisers by the horses.

As everyone safely returned to the curbs, the mounted police stayed alongside them, keeping order. One man, Brian Garry, reached out to pet a police horse, but was unable to reach as the horse spun away.

After Bush's war rally ended, hundreds of protesters began booing and shouting at the guests leaving Union Terminal. The passengers in the departing cars returned with shouts and middle fingers.

Despite Bush's effort to seal out the voices of dissent during his rally, those opposed came together in one great voice to say, "Not in my name."

Patrick, a protester from Dayton, said afterward he was glad he attended.

"It was a very successful night," he said.

Truly, this is what democracy looks like. ©

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