Photos by Steven Devadanam for HouStoned Images Ltd., Ulmtd.
A multi-tasking protestor denounces prison torture while modeling an excellent Halloween costume.

Hell to the Chief!

As you know, the Leader of the Free World held court at the Sugar Land Regional Airport yesterday, stumping for one Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. By all accounts, it was a festive affair, with President Bush telling folks that he "always feels better" when he's in Texas.

President Bush echoed Sekula-Gibb's "Vote Twice for Shelley" ads, and broke it down for those who're still a little shaky on the write-in thing:

"See, if you wanna send Shelley to the United States Congress, you gonna have to take a pencil into the ballot box. Now, you can bring a piece of paper with you, that's got her name on it so you can copy it down on the ballot. So remember, when you show up to vote on November 7, be sure to bring your pencil and write Shelley's name in for good government."

Got it. President Bush also listed some of the congressional candidate's traits that make her the lady for the job. "She's a doctor," he began, and you know where this is going. Yup, he said she heals "broken bodies."

Wonder how many "broken bodies" come through a dermatologist's office...

Picketers were forced to shout down Bush from more than 200 yards away.

Anyhoo, I decided to meet the small group of protesters who'd assembled at the airport. (Far away from the airport, as it turned out.) Those opposing President Bush's regime were sent to an orange, plastic-fenced pen, which measured roughly 10 yards by 30 yards. It would become known as the "Freedom of Speech" cage.

Protesters started arriving at the airport at about 3:30 p.m., in advance of the president's arrival at the airport's hangar. They were sent to the pen, which was about two football fields away from the action and didn't offer any kind of Presidential view. Other protesters walked along Highway 6 with signs that said "Impeach Bush!" and "The Emperor Has No Clue." Another: "Lying, Syping, Torture, Impeach!" (Not that the President would've noticed the spelling error anyway.) One protester sported an Abu-Ghraib-inspired orange jumpsuit and hood.

Syping, spying...bah! There are clearly bigger issues here than spelling.

"People driving by honked and yelled obscenities," said Laura, a protester. "But a lot of people honked in support, though, too."

"It's ridiculous that we're in this pen," said Lynn, a Freedom of Speech Cage protestor who added that she "wanted her Constitution back" and the President "couldn't handle" their free speech. Other protesters called Bush a "coward" and "fake leader." Dr. Joseph Kaye, who said that he worked in public health research, said people are afraid to speak their mind. "How can he sleep at night knowing all the people he's sent to harm. All the innocent Americans and Iraqi citizens? But you know, I felt concern about protesting publicly. I really did think, 'Are they going to spy on me?'"

Thomas, a mohawked young guy, agreed. "There's all kinds of databases out there," he said. "I'm sure my face is in a database, too." There was a helicopter circling around here. Supposedly they were screening for security, but I'm sure they were watching us, too." Thomas even made an ominous reference to reporters. "There's all kinds of people here who claim to be with the alternative media, who're actually taking pictures of us and gathering information." (Damn, he found me out.)

Could Dubya' read the signs as he landed? We'll never know.

Overall, the protestors were a solemn, committed bunch. When Bush arrived in the Marine One helicopter, the small band waved their signs at him, in hopes that he'd see them.

A little more than an hour later, the President flew off in Marine One and a line of Bush supporters made their way out of the airport. John, a Veterans for Peace supporter, said that despite the pen and the heavy police presence and no access to Dubya, he was glad to have protested. "It's America, isn't it? Freedom of speech, isn't it? Shit, it's still worth it." -- Steven Devadanam

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