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150-200 Protesters Give "Back-door Bush" a Frosty Maine Reception
Constance Puckett

Governor Bush snuck in and out of Maine today, but despite his secrecy and a spring blizzard, between 150 and 200 protesters showed up to greet him.

The White House had given the Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce only two weeks' notice that the UnPresident would be speaking to them on March 23. A small blurb mentioning the event appeared in the local papers on Monday, but no details were given on where he would be speaking. The Chamber of Commerce told callers that they "weren't at liberty to say." The information could be found on their web site, however, so word quickly spread among those interested in protesting. What I wonder is, wouldn't the White House normally want people to know the details of a "presidential" visit? Because you would think that they would want people to come and try to at least get a glimpse of the their new "president," wouldn't you? I remember when I lived in New Hampshire a few years ago that Vice President Gore came frequently to speak and there was certainly never any secretiveness about any details of his visits.

Il Bushe's smirking countenance was not seen by any of the protesters, but most of us did see his car. He arrived, by way of back streets, at the Salvation Army shelter and made a brief tour. Then he went around half a block by car and went into the back door of the auditorium where he was speaking. The streets were all blocked off. A tent was in place in front of the door and we saw the black SUV with flags drive into the tent. We were about half a block away. The tents of the flap were then put down, so that he could exit the SUV in private and enter the building. Is this standard security procedure or is he just afraid to face real live American people? The protesters chanted "Back-door Bush!"

Some local news was there and a couple of radio stations did interviews with a few protesters. Two photographers from the Associated Press took my picture because they liked my sign which featured two pictures of Smirky showing his usual comical expressions.

When the people who had come to hear Mr. Bush speak came out at the end of the speech they had to walk pretty much single-file between barriers. Protesters were lined up and chanting on either side of the barriers. Both the Bush audience and the protesters were generally friendly, though, because Mainers are pretty laid-back type people. Most of the audience people smiled and laughed at the humorous signs. Only a very few looked angry or said things like, "Show respect for the President!" I'll bet those were the same people that showed zero respect for President Clinton! I noticed that the majority of people in the audience were men and most were wearing business suits, so many of them might have been Chamber of Commerce members. The crowd appeared to be all white, which isn't surprising since Maine is 98% white. But I was surprised to see that maybe only 20% of the group were women. Most of the women wore business dress, as well, but a sizable number of them had a sort of "conservative Republican" look about them. Sort of a "Katherine Harris" look, with silk scarves and Monet-type jewelry, but not quite as much make-up.

There were only two counter-protesters there and they held up Bush-Cheney campaign signs. Many people speculated that perhaps they were paid to be there because they didn't seem too serious, they were just laughing the whole time.

It was interesting to talk to many of the protesters. People had come from all over Maine and a few had come from Boston. Their signs represented various causes like nuclear disarmament, the environment, the stolen election, taxes, health care, the sanctions against Iraq, and many others. Many people joked that the new administration is so bad that they had trouble even deciding which terrible, destructive policy to protest!

After about 3 hours we all went home with extremely frozen fingers and toes