While the president was in Wings Stadium, telling his supporters that the economy is alive and well, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the cavernous former General Motors Corp. plant that now stands vacant.
Doug Waggoner, a Checker Motors Co. worker, thought the 2.2-million-square-foot building a fitting backdrop. It once employed more than 3,000 workers.
"Look at the jobs that left and look at the ones that are coming in," Waggoner said. "McDonald's jobs ain't gonna fill that up."
Protesters along Sprinkle Road numbered more than 300 Monday afternoon as the president's entourage of motor coaches and Secret Service vehicles exited I-94 and entered Wings Stadium.
Asked why they turned out on a chilly Monday afternoon to chant and wave signs at passing traffic, a few protesters talked about the economy, but most cited the war in Iraq as their No. 1 concern.
George Dickenson, 18, of Battle Creek, carried a sign that read "Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong Tools, Wrong Way." Dickenson booed loudly as the president's red-white-and-blue buses rolled by.
"We got people over there fighting for nothing," he said. "Fighting for nothing and dying for nothing."
Farther west along I-94, members of the Kalamazoo peace group KNOW, for Kalamazoo Non-violent Opponents of War, staged a protest of their own. About 100 people gathered along the highway by a commuter-parking area near the Oakland Drive interchange.
Robert Westley carried a sign reading "A veteran for Peace" topped with an American flag waving in the breeze.
"I feel this is an absolutely unnecessary war that Mr. Bush has gotten us into," the World War II Air Force veteran said. "Frankly, I think that Mr. Bush needs to be replaced."
While KNOW members and supporters protested on the north side of the highway, a group of elementary students from First Assembly Christian School gathered on the south side, where they hung a large "Welcome Pres Bush" banner on a chain-link fence facing the highway.
Teachers came up with the idea of greeting the president Monday morning and did not know the anti-war protesters would be gathering across the way, second-grade teacher Brenda Walker said.
She pointed across the highway to a giant "Iraq -- How many Deaths?" sign.
"That's not positive," she said. "We wanted to be positive, to let him know we're praying for him."
© 2004 Kalamazoo.