As the world continues to learn more about coronavirus and its spread, it's vital to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. However, it's also important to make sure that the information being distributed is from credible sources. To that end, Between The Lines has compiled, [...]
By Sarah Mieras
KALAMAZOO – A tight line of more than one hundred state and local police cross Sprinkle Road on Kalamazoo’s southeast side. Behind them police mounted on horseback move in creating a wall in front of the entrance to Wings Stadium. A voice rings out into a crowd of close to a thousand people carrying picket signs and coffins draped in American flags.
“Sprinkle road is now a police zone. If you step off the curb you will be forcefully arrested.”
The air of silence over the city is broken for the first time all day as military helicopters circle overhead.
“This is now a police state, if you step off the curb you will be arrested.”
The police are ordered to move in closer to the protesters. A string of blue buses bearing the Bush/Cheney logo exit I-94 and pass the picket line.
“When Bush lies people die,” the crowd chants in unison as they pump their signs into the clear blue sky.
This was the scene at 4 p.m. on Monday, May 3 as President Bush made a campaign stop in Kalamazoo.
“I know that they had been penning protesters up every time Bush and Cheney go someplace, I am surprised that they didn’t do it here, but I am glad too, because it is blatantly unconstitutional,” said protester Ron Kramer who is a member of the anti-war group NO.
Attempts were made to contain Monday’s protest though. The Secret Service had businesses surrounding Wings Stadium close for the afternoon and sign an agreement stating they would not allow protesters to set up camp on their property. The move left a string of fast food chains, gas stations, factories and storefronts dark for the afternoon. The only business that would not sign the agreement was the headquarters of the UAW LOCAL 488. Initially the UAW property was the designated protest point. Tucked away on a side street though, the space was quickly abandoned by the crowd, which headed to the more visible location flanking the interstate.
Among the protesters were representatives of many groups and causes. Those opposed to the war, those in favor of LGBT rights, environmentalists and pro-choice activists all standing side by side; the one thing they all carried in common was a longing to see Bush’s term come to an end.
Holding a sign protesting Bush’s push for amending the Constitution to prohibit gay marriage, Leise Grimmer explained why she rounded up her queer friends to come to the protest.
“The war thing is highly publicized, it’s in the news every single night. The gay marriage issue doesn’t have the staying power in the media. You don’t see on the news every night how many gay people were denied civil rights that day. That’s why it’s important that we are here, to have a presence at events like this,” said Grimmer.
“If Bush is re-elected he is going to succeed in taking away more of our rights,” said K-College student and LGBT activist Lynn Brewer. “I am also scared about what is happening here in Michigan’s legislature with the marriage petitions and the medical care act that would allow doctors not to treat LGBT people.”
Jogging the picket line with a bullhorn, Chair of Michigan’s Democratic Party, Melvin Butch Hollowell rallied the crowd, encouraging them to vote and stand up against the Bush Administration.
“We have the entire freeway overpass covered! This is an unprecedented turnout,” Hollowell screamed. “This president has taken us back generations on the civil rights front.”
Later Hollowell told BTL he has never in his political career “seen the country so mobilized to get a president out of office.”
Most at the protest admit that their picket signs and chanting would do little to change the policies of the Bush Administration, instead their display of free speech was aimed at those sitting at home watching the evening news and those simply driving by.
“Bush is already a lost cause,” said Grimmer. “This is more about getting the message out to other people.”
Scanning the signs along the picket line, Adrianne Marsh, Communications Director for the Michigan Democratic Party said that every issue being displayed during the protest is a huge concern that needs attention. She said that Monday’s protest, and others like it around the country, help frustrated voters connect with like-minded people.
“This is not only energizing people, it is giving them a sense of a common purpose. This gives people an outlet for their frustration.”