Stop depleting my dating pool, read another carried by a young woman who wanted to draw attention to the U.S. militarys death toll in Iraq -- now approaching 950.
Traverse City has always been known as a Republican stronghold, but last Monday -- in what local historian Larry Wakefield termed the largest demonstration in the citys history -- over 1,000 people gathered to protest a campaign appearance by George W. Bush.
Captain Morgan of the Traverse City Police Department estimated the crowd of demonstrators at between 1,000 and 1,500.
For hours before Bush was scheduled to speak, those with tickets to the rally (organizers say 14,000 tickets were handed out) filed into the Civic Center along a sidewalk flanked by a crowd carrying signs and energetically speaking out about the war, job loss, environmental degradation, reproductive freedom and other civil rights issues.
Front Street was closed between Fair and Garfield Streets and the Huntington Bank at Campus Plaza across the way was ordered closed by Secret Service there were three bank robberies during a recent stop in Iowa.
The atmosphere was festive. A giant puppet, a woman in a Chicken Little costume, and mock Secret Service agents on stilts circulated through the mass of demonstrators which included babies, grandparents, and people in wheelchairs. A woman with a French horn played Send in the Clowns and Hail to the Chief (during which demonstrators chanted Hail to the Thief!). There was drumming, accordian playing and a theater troupe that pulled a naked King George on a charriot and chanted, The Emperor Wears no Clothes!
One woman on her way to see the President plugged her ears and talked loudly to herself to avoid listening to the demonstrators. Others engaged in debate. Several said that Bushs anti-abortion stand is the single issue that will motivate them in the polls. Many acknowledged, with amused tolerance as they pressed through the crowd, that freedom of expression is a treasured and respected right.
How would the Bush campaign interpret free speech in Traverse City?
The Civic Center, a county-owned recreational complex, had been rented to the Republican National Committee for the day. At least one woman, local teacher Kathryn Mead, was denied access to the event, even though she had a ticket, when she refused to remove her sticker in support of John Kerry. Others were forced to remove political buttons.
Kate Stephan, chair of the Grand Traverse Republican Party, said the Bush campaign has the right to admit whom they choose.
In some towns along the campaign trail people attending the Bush event were required to sign oaths of support.
Earlier this summer the national ACLU sent a memo to groups planning protests. It asked people to note whether the President appeared in his official capacity as President or as a candidate for the presidency and whether Bush supporters are allowed closer to the President than other types of demonstrators. The ACLU is considering a nationwide class action suit against the Bush campaign for disrespecting First Amendment rights.
After people had been milling around for hours and the country band Trick Pony had finished its opening act, the Bush motorcade sped into the Civic Center through a crowd of hundreds.
As the motorcade whipped by, protester Holly Spaulding stepped forward in order to be more visible. Spaulding had been told by police that the NO MORE BUSHIT banner she was holding would have to be put down when Bushs entourage arrived and she wanted to make sure that Bush was aware of the opposition massed around the Civic Center.
Spaulding, along with Terri DeFillipo was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for breaching the sterile zone set up by the Secret Service along the motorcade route.
And when their attorney, Mark Messing, attempted to speak with them, he too was arrested.
Once in custody, Spaulding said, she was questioned in an intimidating way by a man who had a wire in his ear, but no badge, and said he was with the Secret Service.
He said, If you talk to me, okay. If you dont talk to me it will start an investigation. He asked me: Who did you come with? Are you part of a group? How you feel about the President?
Messing said police told him, Relax, they are just going to take them, remove them from the site, and when this is over they will let them go.
Messing is outraged that Spaulding and DeFillipo were detained in this manner, questioned without an attorney present, and that he was arrested for identifying himself to police and attempting to represent his clients.
Clearly no one is paying attention to the Bill of Rights here, said Messing of the arrest scenario, By arresting me theyve compromised my clients abilities to have their attorney of choice. Messing said he intends to pursue this matter.
Apparently, this president is not able to expose himself to anyone who doesnt agree with him, added Messing.
Many people photographed and video-taped the incident (there are video clips online at www.ventingmedia.com).
I think its good that they were willing to put themselves out there, said 14-year-old Emma Cook who participated in the demonstrations and witnessed the arrests. (Bush) knew that we were out there and that we were willing to do a lot to get our message across thats why they drove so fast.
Despite the arrests, representatives from the Traverse City Police, the Grand Traverse County Sheriffs Department, the State Police and the Secret Service all said that the event turned out well -- no security problems, no one hurt, no garbage left behind.
It was a great day for Traverse City, said local attorney Blake Ringsmuth, who called Mondays demonstration the most vibrant expression of First Amendment rights hed ever seen in this town.
Ringsmuth said that in the past people with opposing views may have been hesitant to speak out because of the areas identity as a Republican stronghold but the demonstrations were, Rejuvenating. Galvanizing a huge day for Democrats and for those who dont believe in the way this country is going.