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Nearly 600 protestors, including students, military veterans, and peace activists, showed up to express their disapproval of President George Bush Saturday in Stillwater.
Bush gave the commencement speech in Boone Pickens Stadium at Oklahoma State University. He was flown in by helicopter at approximately 10 a.m. after landing in Air Force One at Vance Air Force Base in Enid.
As Bush flew in, protestors shook their fists at the sky and chanted, “Bush lied, thousands died.” The chant grew louder and louder during Bush’s speech as well. Sometimes, chanters just yelled, “Liar” over and over, or “1, 2, 3, 4, we don’t want your stupid war. 5, 6, 7, 8, stop the killing, stop the hate,” or “Impeach, indict, imprison.”
Bush lied the country into the immoral, illogical war in Iraq, sanctioned the torture of prisoners in American custody, and ordered the illegal wiretapping of American citizens. All these acts are impeachable offenses. Bush does not face any real investigations into these acts because the Republican Party, with its majority in Congress, has placed partisan politics above the country’s interests. Meanwhile, Bush approval ratings continue to drop, even in Oklahoma.
Protestors waved signs like these: “Bush is a liar,” “Make levees, not war,” “Democracy was getting old anyway,” “Impeach Bush,” “Bush step down,” “Mr. Bush, stop the killing. Bring them home now,” “Bush lied, kids died,” “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” "Who would Jesus torture?"
The protestors were allowed to assemble only a block or two away from the stadium. The crowd swelled from 8 to 11 a.m., as OSU students and others came and went, some participating in the protest before moving on elsewhere on campus. Some protestors—some even walking through the crowd and counting—estimated the come-and-go crowd at 500 to 600, though an exact count was impossible because the protest lasted from 8 a.m. to noon.
The Daily Oklahoman, of course, estimated the crowd at only 350 (“Demonstrators voice opinions,” May 7, 2006), and its coverage of the protest showed the newspaper’s conservative bias. The newspaper, for example, referred to a counter-protest to the Bush protest when, in fact, it was only one to three people. During much of the Bush protest, in fact, only one man protested in favor of Bush. To call this a real protest or compare it to the Bush protest in any equal way is a lie. The newspaper also stressed it was primarily non-students who were at the Bush protest. That seems untrue as well. I believe OSU and other college students made up a sizeable portion of the protestors. I was there. I personally know some of the students and former students who were there. Certainly, peace activists from Oklahoma City and Tulsa attended the protest, but students from throughout the state attended the protest as well. It was an extremely diverse group of people in terms of age. The Oklahoman’s editors and reporters want to write off the protest as the work of a “bunch of old hippies,” but anyone who was there knows that was not the case.
As students left the commencement, some either joined protestors or waved their support. Oklahoma may still be the reddest of red states, but Bush did not get a warm welcome in Stillwater Saturday. It was ambiguous at best. There were vocal, angry people demanding he resign for the sake of the country’s democratic structures. Some students wore protest material on their graduate caps. A few students—maybe four or five—joined the one counter protestor after the commencement, but they did not stay long, and it was certainly not organized or significant. (Who, in all good conscience, can really support this president’s policies now? Even traditional conservatives are turning against him.)
The protest Saturday was peaceful and fun. At one point the crowd chanted, “Ducks against Bush” in reference to a duck that stood next to the one counter protestor. Some students wore costumes and masks and held hand-painted signs. There was music and singing. Volunteers passed out water to protestors. The protest possessed vibrancy and unity.
I believe the Bush protest movement grew considerably in Oklahoma Saturday, both in size and spirit, but it will not stop there. We cannot let the mainstream media spin its lies about our events, and we must continue to challenge the conservative media with the truth. This much we know for sure: The protest against the imperial Bush grows here and across the country. It is a grassroots movement made up of ordinary, concerned citizens who are learning and relearning how to speak up for what is right. The protest Saturday was a beginning, not a culmination. It affirmed democracy and freedom.
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