War Protesters Follow Bush to Maine
Near the Site of a First-Family Gathering in Kennebunkport
By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 27, 2006; Page A04
KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine, Aug. 26 At every wedding, it seems, something
happens not according to plan. Expect the unexpected, planners warn. But
how many brides and grooms expect a peace protest?
is what happens when the president shows up for the ceremony in the midst
of a polarizing war. About 700 demonstrators marched past the seaside
church where President Bush's second cousin was to be married Saturday
and then up to the checkpoint guarding the family summer compound to protest
the war in Iraq.
The protesters left a few hours before the service so as not to disrupt
the event itself, but they took advantage of the president's visit to
make their point and showcase their opposition to a war that polls show
has lost most of the public's support. Just as Bush found himself trailed
to Texas by war opponents last year, now he has been dogged to his parents'
getaway on the rocky shores of the Maine coast.
"People wanted to speak
truth to power," said Jamilla el-Shafei, 53, a business owner in Kennebunk
who helped organize the march. "What we wanted to do was let President
Bush know we are the face and voice of a majority of Americans who are
standing up to say, 'Enough is enough; we want out of Iraq.'"
If Bush or the family was irked, they gave no public indication. "As the
president has said, Americans are free to protest," spokeswoman Dana Perino
said. "Freedom of speech is a fundamental right in our country, which
is fundamentally different to the terrorists' plans for the world."
came to his family's Walker's Point compound Thursday for a four-day weekend
filled with fishing, biking, family events and no official appearances.
Beyond his daily intelligence briefing, his only announced business Saturday
was getting updates on Tropical Storm Ernesto. He had recorded his weekly
radio address, about Hurricane Katrina, earlier.
Acknowledging that Katrina had revealed deep flaws in disaster response
and entrenched poverty that had gone overlooked, Bush vowed in the address
to "do what it takes" to rebuild the Gulf Coast. "We will stay until the
job is done," he said, "and by working together, we will help our fellow
citizens along the Gulf Coast write a new future of hope, justice and
opportunity for all."
will fly to the region Monday to inspect progress in reconstruction. But
for this weekend he seems intent on soaking up the waning days of summer.
He woke up again Saturday for an early-morning bicycle ride in a nearby
federal forest, this time with employees from a local bike shop.
For the Bush clan, this was a weekend of family milestones, with a funeral,
wedding and christening on successive days. "It's a pretty jam-packed
weekend," said one relative who did not want to be named. On Friday, the
family marked the death of Grace Walker, the aunt by marriage of former
president George H.W. Bush. On Saturday, they celebrated the wedding of
her grandson, Walker Stapleton. And on Sunday, they will christen the
new daughter of Walker Stapleton's sister, Wendy.
Stapleton, 29, a real estate businessman in Colorado, is the son of the
former president's first cousin, Dorothy Walker Stapleton, and her husband,
Craig Roberts Stapleton, who was a partner of the current president when
they owned the Texas Rangers and now is ambassador to France. Walker Stapleton
and his father were working out with George W. Bush on Election Day in
2000 when Karl Rove called the Texas governor to warn him he might lose.
After the Secret Service and local police cordoned off the area, the president
showed up Saturday for the wedding at St. Ann's Episcopal Church, an elegant
stone building on a promontory overlooking the sea just down the winding
road from Walker's Point. Bush, wearing a dark suit, was accompanied by
Laura Bush in a turquoise two-piece dress. The former president came in
a blue blazer and white pants while Barbara Bush wore a purple pantsuit.
Guests were brought in by tour bus, except for some who walked, including
former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge.
The bride, Jenna Bertocchi -- yes, another Jenna for the family -- wore
a classic white gown and veil, while her bridesmaids were in pink. From
a distance, news cameras captured the bride walking down the aisle for
the outdoor, seaside ceremony. The president stayed for the half-hour
service but skipped the reception, aides said, to avoid a security disruption.
The protest earlier in the day did not disrupt the ceremony, but it provoked
controversy in this small resort town. Ednamay E. Taraba of Alfred, Maine,
summed up one local sentiment in a posting on the Web site of the Portland
Press Herald: "I think it is terrible that people are going to protest
the President at the wedding, the couple that are getting married have
nothing to do with the presidents [sic] policy, they are just a young
couple who happened to be related."
Organizers rejected that complaint. "An inconvenience for President Bush?"
asked Shafei. "My God, the Iraqi people are inconvenienced. The military
families are inconvenienced. That's very telling of the self-absorbed
culture we're living in that people would be miffed because a bunch of
rich Republicans would be inconvenienced."
The march, affiliated with peace activist Cindy Sheehan, wound its way
with a police escort past this town's famed art galleries, seafood restaurants
and gift shops selling toy lobsters and sweatshirts, along the oceanfront,
past St. Ann's and all the way to the checkpoint in view of Walker's Point,
where they were met by a line of security and turned around.
The protesters carried handmade signs with slogans such as "Stop Killing
Our Children," "Bring Them Home Now," "We Have Nothing to Fear But Bush
Himself," and "Liar, Liar, World's on Fire." In a school field where the
group rallied after the march, speakers called for Bush's impeachment
and sang specially written songs such as "Where is the Rage?"
Jeannine White, 55, a schoolteacher from nearby Wells, had a yellow sign
hanging around her neck that said, "Bring My Son Home." Her son, Staff
Sgt. Ray White, 35, is serving in Baghdad, now in his second tour, she
She had no compunction about spoiling the president's family time. "I
think family is important," she said, accompanied by her husband, John,
59, a retired carpenter. "But do you know how many families the president
has damaged and destroyed? You can't do that kind of stuff and not have
some kind of consequence. This was an opportunity to be close to where
he might actually be bothered to read or look at something."
Maine Veterans For Peace
13 Soper Road
Chesterville, Me 04938