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Protesters slam Bush

By Gary Barlow

Chicago Free Press Staff writer - link

Almost 300 protesters, including AIDS advocates, gays and lesbians, greeted President Bush Jan. 7 as he spoke to a select group of business leaders at the Chicago Hilton and Towers downtown.

While Bush defended his economic and tax policies at a luncheon sponsored by the Economic Club of Chicago, protesters outside the hotel lined Michigan Avenue and angrily denounced the president.

“There are many specific reasons why LGBT people should oppose Bush,” said Andy Thayer, of the Gay Liberation Network. “There’s the fact that he’s pumping all these dollars into faith-based boondoggles while doing nothing about AIDS.”

Thayer went on to criticize Bush and his fellow Republicans for continuing to support a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay and lesbian marriage, saying “it looks like the far right of the Republican Party is getting ready to gear up” for using that issue in the 2006 elections.

“The marriage issue has become a litmus test for our community,” Thayer said.

Allison Solomon, of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, joined other AIDS advocates protesting Bush’s visit.

“The Bush administration isn’t doing enough about AIDS,” Solomon said. “Funding levels are at the same levels they were at in 2000, and 300,000 more people are living with HIV.”

Protesters opposed a laundry list of Bush administration policies, including the Iraq War, economic policies that have resulted in the loss of American manufacturing jobs to countries such as China and alleged abuses involving a recently disclosed program to spy on individual Americans and some organizations, including gay and lesbian advocacy groups.

“The war has sucked $2.1 billion out of Chicago alone,” Thayer said. “This could be funding other things in our communityÉyet it’s funding an Iraq occupation that poll after poll has shown the Iraqi people don’t want.”

Linda Artl wore a hand-painted outfit alleging that Bush is guilty of far more impeachable offenses than his predecessor, Bill Clinton.

“I’m disgusted with the Bush administration getting away with the lies and deceit,” Artl said. “He’s not telling the truth. He’s anti-gay. The war was based on lies, and he’s getting away with it. ÉI want to know why. I want the truth.”

Police kept the demonstrators from getting close to Bush, who also stopped at the Chicago Board of Trade for a private meeting with U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and CBOT executives. After the meeting, the president made a brief foray out on the CBOT floor.

“He never has meetings where he comes out and talks to the people,” protester Betsy Schonitzer said.

GLN member Craig Teichen summed up the sentiments of many of the protesters.

“I don’t like George Bush,” Teichen said.


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