GRAND RAPIDS – Cardboard posters and anti-war chants filled the streets surrounding the DeVos Place Convention Center yesterday afternoon. Around 1,000 people braved the cold and snowy weather for several hours in order to protest President Bush’s foreign policy as he spoke inside.
Kathleen Brezina, 60, of Grand Junction, came to the rally to voice her opposition to Bush and his politics. “He’s the worst president we’ve ever had,” Brezina said. “It’s not unpatriotic to oppose the government. We all have voices.”
Carrying signs with slogans including “Don’t Attack Iraq” and “Peace is Patriotic,” participants in the rally – some of whom arrived as early as 8 a.m. – met across the street from Spectrum Health, the hospital in Grand Rapids that sponsored Bush’s speech. At about noon, the protesters marched several blocks to the DeVos Center, where they were met by police officers, cars and barricades. During the rally, which lasted more than an hour, protesters loudly chanted “Drop Bush not bombs” and “Peace now,” accompanied by whistles and drums.
Families with babies and small children bundled in snowsuits carried signs proclaiming themselves “Another Family for Peace.” Groups of people posed for pictures taken by fellow protesters and press photographers.
Drew Russell, a high school student from East Grand Rapids, attended the rally to show Bush that “even hard Democrats live in western Michigan.” His friend and classmate Adam Stott said that although he planned on enlisting in the military after high school graduation, he said that he felt the war was “basically over oil and not preserving (the Iraqi) way of life.”
“We need to let Bush realize that not everyone is supporting the war,” Stott said.
Jeff Smith of Grand Rapids, one of the rally’s organizers, came with the People’s Alliance for Justice and Change. “We’re here to try to get the city of Grand Rapids to pass an anti-war resolution and to promote a state-wide march on February 15th in Lansing,” Smith said. Ann Arbor passed an anti-war resolution in December, following in the footsteps of Detroit and Traverse City.
Although the overwhelming majority of the crowd was anti-war, about 15 or 20 people came out to support President Bush and his policies. The two groups sometimes chanted the same cheer – “U.S.A.”
Lloyd Selover of Holland, who carried a sign that read “Bless Our Troops,” affirmed his admiration for Bush. “I support the President. I trust the man and his leadership in general. I don’t really think he’s going to wage war, unless it’s as a last resort,” Selover said.
Kathy Williams of Kent City, whose husband was killed last year in active duty, also praised the president.
“The media is constantly showing anti-war supporters,” Williams said. “I want to show Bush he has supporters. I’m supporting the move of the U.S. It’s about oppression of the Iraqi people.”