Protesters Jeer Bush Over Foreign Policy
LONDON (AP) _ Watched by circling helicopters, rooftop snipers, and thousands of police, a few hundred noisy protesters derided President Bush in a mock procession as he officially began his state visit to America’s staunchest ally Wednesday.
Outside Buckingham Palace, where Bush was welcomed by Queen Elizabeth II with pageantry and a 41-gun salute, police kept a smattering of demonstrators and Bush supporters behind metal barriers several dozen yards from the gates.
Bush and his wife, Laura, who arrived at the palace by helicopter Tuesday night, rode in a motorcade the 100 yards from their suite at the palace to a forecourt for the welcoming ceremony with the queen, her husband Prince Philip, Prime Minister Tony Blair and other dignitaries.
Many Londoners have greeted the visit with grumbles about road closures and police pulled off other duties to guard the president, but protests so far have been small.
The real test of anti-Bush sentiment comes Thursday. The Stop the War Coalition hopes for 100,000 or more to march past Parliament and the nearby Downing Street office of Blair, Bush’s major supporter in the troubled occupation of Iraq.
On Wednesday, several hundred anti-war protesters held a colorful ``alternative state procession″ from the south bank of the River Thames to Trafalgar Square. Led by a horse-drawn carriage bearing a man in a Bush mask and a faux queen, demonstrators chanted, ``Resist, resist, Bush and Blair are terrorists″ as they marched under heavy police escort.
Lindsey Ingles, a student from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, said she was protesting Bush’s policies at home and abroad.
``He’s spending trillions of dollars on the war, but my tuition is almost $30,000, and I’ve got very little state aid,″ she said.
Kate Hudson, chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament _ who marched dressed as a weapons inspector with an inflatable missile _ said the pageant ``is a little event in the long British political tradition of satire. We are here to make a very serious point in a humorous way.
``It is just a warm-up ahead of the huge, more serious demonstration that will be taking place tomorrow,″ she said.
Nina Baker, a Scottish Green Party activist who was outside the palace Wednesday, said she opposed Bush’s visit but was not anti-American.
``Everything about (Bush) is just deeply depressing,″ Baker said. ``Bush stole the presidency, Blair lied to the people, Bush led us down the path of war. They are not listening to the public.″
But Kay Moult, a 25-year-old barmaid from Surrey south of London, had turned up in a T-shirt bearing the slogan ``Luvya Dubya.″
``I just like George Bush,″ Moult said. ``I have since Sept. 11. I think he’s done a great job of holding his country together and I think he’s a decent guy.″
Hundreds of officers were deployed on foot patrols around Buckingham Palace, some of them armed _ unusual in Britain _ with firearms as well as batons and pepper spray.
Police said they had made 18 arrests by midday Wednesday, including two for criminal damage, four for drunkenness and one for possession of an offensive weapon.
Ken Livingstone, London’s left-wing mayor and a critic of Bush, told the protesters they would command ``the moral high ground″ only if they refrained from violence.
Outside the palace Wednesday, Joe Gittings, a Ph.D. student from London, led chants _ including ``Yankee poodle Tony Blair″ _ through a loudspeaker as the U.S. anthem played inside the gates.
Katherine White, 44, of Wichita, Kan., said she didn’t mind the protesters.
``I’m an American. We believe in freedom of speech, to each his own,″ she said. ``I simply ignored him, put my hand on my heart and sang my national anthem.″