LGBTs join anti-Bush protest at SMU

Action timed to coincide with groundbreaking for Bush’s presidential library at SMU

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Bush protest
PROTESTING BUSH | About 100 people from around the country, including some local LGBT activists, turned out to protest during the groundbreaking for the Bush presidential library on the SMU grounds this week. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

While George Bush and Dick Cheney broke ground on the new presidential library at Southern Methodist University on Tuesday, Nov. 16, about 100 people from around the country gathered a few blocks away to protest.

Although only one rainbow flag was flown during the protest, members of the LGBT community were prominent among the protesters. That one flag flew from the wheelchair of Kay Lucas.

Lucas was director of the Crawford Peace House, which has since closed. That house was near the main intersection in Crawford, down the road from the Bush ranch. During Bush’s presidency, the property was the center of anti-war activity and where Cindy Sheehan staged her protests.

Sheehan became the face of the anti-war movement after her son, Casey, was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. She spoke at the rally at SMU.

Dallas gay activist Aaron Rathbun attended the rally dressed in his graduation cap and gown and held a sign on stage that read, “Bush failed us.”

“I didn’t have on any rainbow paraphernalia,” said Aaron Rathbun, “I went representing academia.”

He said he went to listen and was impressed by the array of speakers. He mentioned a CIA trainer who left the agency during the Bush administration.
Rathbun said he was impressed by the conviction of someone who would give up his career by saying, “I’m not going to do this anymore.”

He also pointed to another speaker, Col. Ann Wright, who spent 29 years in the military and another 16 years as a diplomat. She resigned her diplomatic post to protest Bush administration policy.

A march began at about 9:30 a.m. at Mockingbird Station along Central Expressway and ended on the SMU campus outside Ford Stadium on the corner of Mockingbird Lane and Airline.

Five different police forces kept protesters and counter-protesters apart. The march began in Dallas, crossed into Highland Park and ended on campus in University Park. Police from each of the three cities remained in their own jurisdictions.

SMU campus police also were on hand at the rally, which was on campus. Sheriff’s department officers guarded the groundbreaking and former administration officials in riot gear with helmets, shields and batons.

While Rathbun said he was pleased with turnout at the protest, he said it was underreported because camera crews and journalists were not allowed to come and go from the groundbreaking site.

“They were on lockdown,” he said.

Only pre-approved guests and media were allowed near the library site.

Colleen Rowley, who was Time magazine’s 2002 person of the year as one of the year’s whistleblowers and has since run for Congress, tried marching from the protest site toward the groundbreaking.

“The police looked as sad as we did,” Rowley said.

She wore all black with a white expressionless mask and the name of an Iraq War soldier killed in action hanging on a sign around her neck.

Radio host and QueerLiberaction activist Rick Vanderslice led some of the chanting and was one of the speakers. He echoed the event’s “Arrest Bush” theme.

He said that the policy institute was being built to justify the policies of the Bush administration. He said that cannot be allowed to happen and called them war criminals who should be arrested and brought to justice.

“We all know that this library is just a way for him to rewrite his own history until it becomes a fait accompli,” Vanderslice said.

He said he was struck by the age of most of the protesters.

“Everyone was middle age or older,” he said. The old anti-war hippies.”

He was curious about the absence of any SMU students at the protest, noting a few who had come from University of North Texas and even one who came to Dallas from Baylor. Only two SMU staff stood across the street to observe despite the large number who had signed a petition to keep the library off campus.

However, many SMU students who were interested in the groundbreaking ceremony were watching the event on a large screen TV truck set up nearby. Campus officials reported that a large number logged onto the Internet to watch.

Vanderslice said that the rally was a weeklong event to activate people.

“I still think there’s efficacy in protesting,” Vanderslice said. “Younger people look at protesting as an antique.”

He said the Bush administration was such an enemy of the LGBT community, more should have attended, but understood that the rally took place during the workday and a school day.

“There must be consequences for misconduct,” he said. “We must demand justice.”

“With the scope of the atrocities done, I’d like to see Bush held accountable to an international tribunal,” Rathbun said.

Many of the protesters held signs that said “Arrest Bush” and “Arrest Cheney First.” A few criticized Obama for continuing Bush’s war policies.

Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin listed a variety of Bush administration atrocities such as water boarding, denying global warming and “bombing Iraq into the Stone Age.” She said she was amazed that after he admitted some of these things in his new book, no investigation was taking place.

Sheehan explained why she had traveled to Dallas from her home in California for the protest.

“You can’t put a bloom on that lily,” she said. “He wasn’t a good person. He wasn’t a good president. We can’t let him rewrite history.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 19, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Gays join protest of Bush library groundbreaking

Rick Vanderslice

About 100 people gathered to protest the groundbreaking of the George Bush Library on the Southern Methodist University campus this morning.

Members of the LGBT community were among the organizers. Other protesters came to Dallas from around the country.

Among the protesters was Cindy Sheehan, who became the face of the anti-war movement after the death of her son Casey in Iraq in 2004.

A march began at about 9:30 a.m. at Mockingbird Station and ended on the SMU campus outside Ford Stadium near Mockingbird Lane and Airline Drive. Many were dressed in black with white masks representing soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush administration.

Five different police forces kept protesters and counter-protesters apart. The march began in Dallas, crossed into Highland Park and ended on campus in University Park. SMU campus police also were on hand.

The groundbreaking was held several blocks away and protesters were not allowed anywhere near the dignitaries, who included  the Bushes and Cheneys. Sheriff’s department officers guarded that ceremony in riot gear with shields and batons. Only pre-approved guests and media were allowed near the library site.

However, pro-Bush counter-protesters were allowed to mingle on the outskirts of the anti-Bush crowd.

Local speakers were mostly from the LGBT community.

Aaron Rathbun dressed in a graduation cap and gown and held a sign on stage that read, “Bush failed us.”

Radio host and Queer LiberAction activist Rick Vanderslice led some of the chanting and was one of the speakers. He echoed the event’s “Arrest Bush” theme.

Vanderslice said the policy institute is being built to justify the policies of the Bush administration. He said this can’t be allowed to happen and called them war criminals who should be arrested and brought to justice.

“We can get them,” he said.

“Millions of lives have been ruined because of irresponsible foreign policy,” said Charles Grand, a speaker from the Socialist Workers Party.

Grand said he was happy with the number of people attending since the protest took place during a workday.

Sheehan explained why she had traveled to Dallas from her home in California for the event.

“You can’t put a bloom on that lily,” she said. “He wasn’t a good person. He wasn’t a good president. We can’t let him rewrite history.”

Other speakers included Time magazine 2002 person of the year Colleen Rowley, Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin and Col. Ann Wright, who spent 29 years in the military followed by 16 years as a diplomat and resigned her post to protest Bush administration policy.

State Rep. Lon Burnham from Tarrant County was scheduled to speak but was held up by an airline delay.

The museum and library will open in 2013. The policy center is already operating in offices in Preston Center.

Dressed as death, a number of protesters, including Time person of the year Colleen Rowley, marched to the groundbreaking but were turned back

—  David Taffet