March 16, 2010

Protesters give it one last shot

NOEL K

— By . GALLAGHER

click image to enlarge

Anti-war protesters protest near Walkers Point where President Bush is staying in Kennebunkport, Maine, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2008.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)

AP

Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — What was likely the last protest here of the Bush administration was a relatively small affair, with about 60 people marching through town to Walker's Point, where President Bush was staying this weekend to attend a family wedding.

Organizer Jamilla El-Sharfei blamed the small turnout on the short notice of the presidential visit -- she learned of it a week ago Friday -- and other events happening Saturday, including a peace festival in Brunswick and the Beach to Beacon run in Cape Elizabeth. But demonstrators said they were happy to be a part of it.

''I want to remind Bush that people have not forgotten that he lied about the war,'' said Mary McLaughlin, of Kennebunkport. ''People are disgraced by him.''

Several protesters noted this might be the last time they gather in Kennebunkport for a protest during the Bush administration.

''This is probably our last chance to discuss our dissatisfaction with the Bush administration,'' said Jacqui Deveneau of Old Orchard Beach. ''The fact that there aren't many people here does not in any way mean that people are accepting of what's going on and are not angry.''

Some people may have stayed away because it's getting to the end of the administration or because they think they can't make a difference, she said.

''That hopelessness is part of the thing that keeps people home, but they're wrong. People need to come out and be seen,'' said Deveneau, who was wearing a button that read, ''It's been lovely, but I have to scream now.''

At Walker's Point, a large white tent was set up for the reception for two White House staffers, one of them a distant Bush cousin. Offshore, a Coast Guard cutter and several smaller patrol boats stood watch. Along Ocean Avenue, the usual joggers, dog-walkers and tourists found their seaside idyll temporarily disrupted by the chants of ''Jail to the Chief'' and ''No justice, no peace.''

''I don't agree with it personally,'' said Keith Croft, an elementary school teacher from North Providence, R.I., as the protesters walked by. ''I'm more supportive of the troops. I support the president.''

The group carried a large fabric dove of peace at the head of the march, while a memorial to a fallen soldier brought up the rear. Carlos Arredondo drove the pickup memorial dedicated to his son, Lt. Cpl. Alexander Arredondo, who died in Iraq. The memorial includes multiple flags, crutches, Army boots and is dominated by a flag-draped casket in the bed of the truck.

As demonstrators marched along the town's picturesque waterfront, they shouted ''Out of the yachts and into the streets!'' and ''Out of the spas and into the streets!''

One man taking pictures of the protesters as they passed by was Ron Heim, in town as a guest for the Walker's Point wedding.

''I hope this doesn't disrupt the wedding,'' said Heim, a real estate executive in Newport Beach, Calif. ''It seems like a small crowd for an event that seems to have already had its peak.''

At the final security checkpoint about a half-mile from the Bush family estate, Arredondo told the crowd he meant to honor his son with his memorial and his participation in the protest.

''Bush will be out of office soon and hopefully this nightmare will end,'' said Arredondo, whose 20-year-old son was killed by a sniper. ''Let's support the troops -- bring them home now.''

The protesters received a mixed response as they marched through town. Some drivers and passers-by honked their horns or waved and clapped in support, while others shook their heads and criticized them for demonstrating during a Bush family wedding. Bush had no public appearances planned during the weekend.

One resident, Jill Theriault, passed out a small flyer to protesters at the beginning of the march, urging them to respect the private family event. Most handed the flyer back to her, some of them ripping it up first.

''I feel that the protests are a negative way of getting a message across,'' Theriault said. ''I want the soldiers all back, too, but I don't agree with the protests.''

There were no arrests or disruptions during the march. Kennebunkport Police Chief Joseph Bruni said he was relieved that the demonstrations were likely to end soon, since Bush is not expected back before the end of his term.

''It's a lot of attention on such a small town,'' Bruni said.

Bruni said previous demonstrations during both Bush administrations have been much larger. One last summer drew more than 4,000 people and an ACT UP protest in the 1980s drew about 5,000, he said. Since 1981, he said, the police have only arrested four people during demonstrations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 282-8226 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

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