GRAND RAPIDS — On June 30, 2003, approximately 75 people came out to protest Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in town for a fundraiser for President Bush’s reelection campaign. His appearance in Grand Rapids was one of many recent fundraisers by both Cheney and Bush, who are hoping to earn between $170 and $200 million for their campaign. On nearly every stop of their fundraising tour, both President Bush and Vice President Cheney have been greeted by protestors — a good sign for those advocating “regime change” in the United States.
In Grand Rapids, the protest was separately organized by two different groups and was attended by a variety of people who were not there on behalf of a specific group. The People’s Alliance for Justice and Change, who earlier this year organized a protest against President Bush when he appeared in Grand Rapids, organized focusing on three main points: the administration’s distortion of evidence pertaining to weapons of mass destruction, Cheney’s profiting from reconstruction contracts awarded as a result of the invasion of Iraq, and the need for regime change in the United States. Meanwhile, Fair Taxes for All brought out people to protest the exclusion of low-income families from the recent tax legislation signed by President Bush.
The People’s Alliance for Justice and Change pointed out the fact that Vice President Cheney has ties with Halliburton, a company that has made a significant amount of money of reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Cheney is a former CEO of Halliburton, and many protestors questioned the motivations behind Cheney endorsing the war in light of the “no-bid” contracts given to Halliburton and its subsidiary, Brown and Root. Halliburton continues to pay Cheney, paying him up to $1 million dollars in the last year in “deferred compensation.” The independent press has published numerous articles examining Cheney’s ties to reconstruction contracts, yet the mainstream press has neglected to cover the issue.
The protest was a typical rally, in that people held signs hoping that passing motorists would see them. The fundraiser was held in a suburban area along busy 4-lane thoroughfare, which meant that there was no pedestrian traffic and thus no ability to really educate people beyond what could fit on a sign. The signs accused Cheney of a number of things: being a war profiteer, a war criminal for the illegal war on Iraq (illegal by international law, and of questionable legality based on the United States’ own Constitution), using government policy exclusively for the benefit of the wealthy, and failing to help the millions without health care in the United States.
The police presence was relatively strong, and while a moderate amount of officers were present in the area in front of the Meijer Gardens, three vans containing additional “tactical squadrons” were kept on hand in order to prevent a demonstration like the one that occurred during the Bush visit in January, when 150 people marched through the streets of downtown Grand Rapids and blocking traffic. As has become the standard in Grand Rapids in the past six months, poorly disguised undercover officers and uniformed officers subjected protestors to video surveillance in case of “future crimes.”
As would be expected, the local corporate media’s coverage of the protest was awful — with many of the news organizations trying to characterize the crowd as “war protestors” or “Democrats” when in reality most of the protestors were calling for deeper and more complex changes in policy — changes that could not be readily reduced to sound bites. Such a reduction of issues down to a vulgar categorization is no doubt commonplace in the media, and serves as perfect reminder of why the independent press is so important.