ROCHESTER, NY -- While Vice President Dick Cheney spoke to supporters inside the Riverside Convention Center in downtown Rochester today, more than 300 sign-carrying, chanting protesters rallied outside the center, expressing their opposition to the U.S. presence in Iraq.
“I feel absolute anger over what’s happening in Iraq,” said Jessie Nimeh of Webster, who was at the protest with her two young sons. “Cheney is here at $1,000-a-plate while soldiers are dying.”
Most of the protesters had gathered first at Washington Square Park to walk the three blocks to the convention center on a gray, raw day. As they walked they chanted, “Bush and Cheney have to go. We won’t fight for Texaco,” and other anti-administration slogans.
Khury Peterson-Smith, 21, of Rochester chants with the crowd in front of Rochester Riverside Convention Center today, in a protest against Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney was in town for a $1,000-a-plate re-election campaign fundraiser. (Photo/DANESE KENON)
Downtown office workers and people waiting for buses at East Main Street and South Clinton Avenue watched in silence as the demonstrators went by.
Nearer the convention center, one man rebuked the demonstrators, saying, “You’re a Nazi, go back to Berlin,” over and over. Asked to give his name, he said, “It doesn’t matter.”
By the time the majority of the crowd had reached the convention center, Cheney was already inside.
Sister Grace Miller, a veteran of anti-war demonstrations, had gotten to the center early enough to see Cheney’s motorcade come by on Saint Paul Street.
“The crowd should have been bigger,” she said. “They should have been here when he came.”
Miller said she was there because of what Cheney represents and because of the way President Bush is handling the situation in Iraq.
Many of the people in the crowd found the Republican fund-raising luncheon at which Cheney spoke to be inappropriate, given social concerns in Rochester and the United States.
“They’re taking money from the poor,” said Rodney Mouzon of Rochester.
Gail Mott of Pittsford had a sign which said that the $1,000 tab for each lunch could feed a family of four for 347 days. She said that she had gotten the formula for computing this figure from Foodlink, the clearing house for donated food in this area.
There were police along the route of the protest march and outside the convention center. There were no incidents.
Metro Justice, the group which organized the protest, and the Rochester City Police Department had met before today to work out the details of the event.
“It’s important that everybody has a chance to express their Constitutional Rights -- the people on the inside at the luncheon, and the people on the outside,” said Police Chief Robert Duffy as he watched the demonstration. “There’s been no problems, no concerns. Everyone is getting to participate. ... Our job is to stay neutral.”
“The police department is to be commended for keeping everything safe and orderly,” said Jon Greenbaum, an organizer for Metro Justice.
Cheney was swinging through western New York on Monday, eating meals in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, hoping to generate $1 million for the re-election of President Bush. The vice president’s visit is indicative of the Bush-Cheney campaign’s fundraising ability. The campaign has raised more than $90 million, compared with $25 million for Howard Dean, the top fund-raiser of the nine candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. Bush’s campaign, in fact, is already closing in on the record raised for a presidential campaign - which it set in 2000 by raising $101 million. For the re-election bid in 2004, Bush plans to raise at least $170 million.
Copyright 2003 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.