EDMONTON - While former U.S. president George W. Bush talked about
democracy inside a downtown Edmonton conference centre on Tuesday,
hundreds of protesters were outside exercising their right to free
speech with signs, songs and screams.
"Stop the killing, stop the
war," the protesters chanted to the beat of a drum. They held signs
that said "Bush is a war criminal;" "Bush lied, 1,000s died;" and
"Canada is not Bush Country."
Several dozen police officers kept
protesters away from the front of the Shaw Conference Centre and as the
crowd grew, metal barricades went up between the police and the crowd.
Gaa, who holds both American and Canadian citizenship, held a
three-metre-tall black-clad Grim Reaper with a sign on his back that
said: "GWB I am your biggest fan" and on the front, "Thanks for 8 great
"For the eight years that George Bush was president I was
profoundly ashamed and alarmed and angry and now it seems so unfair
that he's making a world tour trying to share his 'wisdom' and make a
lot of money," said Gaa.
Edmonton businessman Aroon Sequeira saw it differently.
think people are entitled to voice their opinions and I'm equally
interested in hearing what president Bush has to say inside."
Nelner was one of only a handful of people supporting Bush, and she
said she got an earful from those against the former president.
"Bush may not be perfect, but I tell you, if they were in a terrorist act, they wouldn't be here protesting against that."
Marsh, along with her 11-month-old daughter Shanaea, joined in the
protest, although the little girl was more interested in the sign her
mom was carrying.
"I think we shouldn't be having a war criminal
here, we should have a government that's anti-terrorism, anti-war, and
I figured I had to lend my voice to the uproar," Marsh said.
2,000 tickets ranging from $30 to more than $100 each to "A
Conversation with George Bush" sold out, and security was extremely
tight - those with tickets had to show them at the door to gain entry,
then show them again before going downstairs to the ballroom where Bush
Before getting into the ballroom, there was a
mandatory coat check, and then an airport-type screening where purses
and pocket contents went into a grey bin and were searched, while their
owners went through a metal screener.
Bush received a standing ovation when he was introduced.
warmed up the crowd by describing how, 20 days after leaving the Oval
Office, he was walking his dog Barney in his Texas neighbourhood for
the first time, "a plastic bag on one hand, picking up what I had
dodged for eight years."
The former president talked about how
Canada is a great friend to the United States and thanked Canadians for
their involvement in the war in Afghanistan.
disproportionately shouldered the load ... I know the Canadian people
are showing great patience in the theatre of war."
president also expressed concern about nuclear proliferation in North
Korea and Iran, adding the former is more worrisome because Iran is
more open than North Korea.
Bush said he was also very worried
about Pakistan and its government being toppled by extremists because
the country has an established nuclear program.
Three people were
escorted out of the hall during Bush's appearance after yelling out but
it's not known if they were arrested or charged. Police say there were
no arrests during the outdoor protest.
There were similar protests earlier this year when Bush made appearances in Calgary and Toronto.
Bush is speaking in Saskatoon on Wednesday and Montreal on Thursday. Protests are planned in both locations.