BANGOR - At least six protesters were thrown out of a campaign rally Tuesday
afternoon as President Bush made an appearance at Bangor International Airport,
according to witnesses.
At least 30 other protesters were denied access to buses that transported rally-goers
from a parking area at the edge of the airport to a hangar on airport property
where Bush made his appearance.
For the most part, however, the roadside protest by about 150 people against
war in Iraq was peaceful and no arrests were reported.
Of the protesters kicked out of the hangar, only one may have been seen by
the president. Bush was thanking the efforts of Republican grass-roots activists
when Graham Platner, 18, of Sullivan made his move.
President Bush acknowledges supporters after speaking at a Republican Party rally
Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2002, in Bangor, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
"Since he was talking about [activists] I thought it was the perfect time,"
Platner said. He unfolded a small sign he had hidden in a pants pocket and raised
it high to display the words "No war."
"I started yelling, 'Don't attack Iraq. If our best generals tell us not to
go to war, why should we,'" Platner said. "Bush looked right at me and people
started yelling for me to shut up, but he saw me."
Platner said a rally-goer ripped the sign out of his hand as he was escorted
out of the hangar and directed back up the road a few hundred yards to the parking
area at the corner of Maine Avenue and Godfrey Boulevard where other protesters
were centralized, he said. That was the area Secret Service had set aside for
the protesters to demonstrate.
Members of the Secret Service and event staff refused to comment on their interaction
with the protesters. Bangor Police Department spokesmen were not immediately available
Just before Bush's appearance in the hangar, Jon McCormack, 20, of Harpswell
and Chris Fitzpatrick, 20, of Waterville removed their sweat shirts to reveal
T-shirts announcing "Not My President" next to a picture of Bush, and "I didn't
vote for George Bush. Don't blame me."
McCormack, Fitzpatrick and three friends sat on the floor when they were approached
by event staff and Secret Service agents who told them to leave, Fitzpatrick said.
The agents and members of the Bangor Police Department grabbed them by their shirts
and dragged them outside where they were given verbal disorderly conduct warnings
and told to leave, members of the group said.
Members of the event staff, local police and Secret Service also kept a close
watch on picketers in the parking lot and prevented more than 30 of them from
boarding the buses that periodically transported rally-goers to the hangar.
"They said it was a CIA thing and that the Secret Service wouldn't let us in,"
said Bree Blaylock, 22, of Old Town. Blaylock said she was attempting to get on
a half-empty bus when she was told there was no more room and the door was shut
briefly on her hand before she removed it and the bus drove off. Blaylock did
not appear injured.
The protesters had begun gathering at the corner of Maine Avenue and Godfrey
Boulevard about 10 a.m. in preparation for Bush's 3 p.m. address in the airport
The dozen or so activists grew to about 150 by 1 p.m., and represented groups
that included Veterans for Peace, Island Peace and Justice of Deer Isle, Pax Christi
of Winterport, Work for Peace of Harrington, Peninsula Peace and Justice of Blue
Hill, and PICA of Bangor.
The protesters waved their signs in the air, banged drums and chanted their
opposition to war in Iraq. Tensions between rally-goers and demonstrators ran
high at times but never escalated beyond verbal taunts.
"Try demonstrating in Iraq. You can't do it there. There's no freedom there,"
said rally-goer Craig Knight, 44, of Eddington as protesters chanted "Tell the
president no war. "
"We don't want a war that causes more problems than it solves," said Catherine
Foxson of Orono, who was at the protest with a group from the Peace and Justice
Center of Bangor.
In the end, 200 Bush supporters were left to empathize with being shut out
of the rally when officials announced that the capacity of about 4,000 people
had been reached and no one else would be allowed into the event. The number of
protesters dropped off to about 30 shortly before 3 p.m.
The public protest was a warm-up for Saturday when thousands of anti-war demonstrations
are scheduled to be held in state capitals nationwide.
"It's our patriotic duty to express our concerns," said Peace and Justice
Center program coordinator Ilze Peterson. "I would say this was a successful day."
© 2002 Bangor Daily News