Damp in Numbers but Not in Fervor
Sunday, February 5, 2006
As he waited for a 30-foot-high effigy of President George W. Bush to fall, Freddy Taiefero told the story of how he ended up here. Homeless in Atlanta a day ago, he now was amid a few thousand protesters on the soggy ground by the Washington Monument.
"They were passing out these leaflets, and I picked one up at the homeless shelter," said the 56-year-old unemployed caterer. "Bush's administration causes joblessness. . . . When he got in, it was like the world was snatched up from under us."
So, Taiefero said, he boarded a bus, slept the night in his seat and yesterday bore the sticker reciting the message of all those around him: "Bush step down."
Yesterday's demonstration, which stretched through five hours of rain and ended with a march around the White House, was organized by a group called World Can't Wait -- Drive Out the Bush Regime. The organization helped lead a smaller rally near the Capitol during Bush's State of the Union address last week.
Yesterday's demonstrators came from as far away as Hawaii. New York alone sent 12 buses. Still, the crowd was significantly smaller than the 30,000 protesters organizers had anticipated. The actual numbers were in the low thousands and varied depending upon how hard it was raining. If antiwar T-shirts were in abundance, they were hidden by sweaters that were covered by jackets that were shadowed by umbrellas.
Ann Wright's shirt just barely peeked out from her coat as the wind picked up. Under the number 2,248, the soldiers killed in Iraq, splashed the words "Impeach Bush." Wright, one of yesterday's speakers, is a former U.S. diplomat and military officer who quit in protest of the war.
"As a citizen, if I don't show up and I don't speak up, then I'm being silent and complacent," she said.
After a series of speakers, organizers dropped a wire-fashioned effigy of Bush off the stage. The crowd, which was already at a roar, chanted in unison: "Bush step down! Bush step down!" After it fell onto the muddy lawn, many took a kick at the soggy frame. More than a few shouted obscenities before the crowd set off for the march around the White House.
Sgt. Scott Fear, a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, said authorities were prepared for the "peaceful demonstration."
"We have to protect their First Amendment rights, too," Fear said. "We're here for them just as much as we're here for anyone else."
Afterward, Taiefero and others boarded buses while some demonstrators talked about their next trip to Washington.
"We'll be back," said Russ Campbell, 65, of Flint, Mich. He and David Smallidge, 70, have led their own weekly marches back home since the war started.