KNOXVILLE, TN (Kay Gardner) GEORGE W. BUSH PROTEST REPORTNEXT: PART II (CONCLUSION)
Total time spent in Tennessee: 2 hours; Total travel time to and from the airport: 1.5 hours; Total time spent inside the school with a "selected" group of people: 30 minutes; Total time spent talking to "real" people: 0
There was very little traffic on the usually busy Alcoa Highway as we headed toward Townsend, Tennessee -- mostly the flashing lights of police cars lining both sides of the road kept up the appearance of human life existing in East Tennessee. Armed with our waterproof magic markers and poster board, we arrived at the designated meeting place. The union people had decided to protest right in front of their building, which was directly on the motorcade route in Alcoa, but we had decided to venture on down into Townsend.
David, who had made a run for Congress from the Maryville district a while back, had already scoped out the area on a "dry run" the day before and found a place where we would surely be seen. I had contacted the Tennessee Chapter of the DNC regarding the protest, but they refused to publicize the action on their mailing list. David had contacted the Knoxville Chair of the DNC, who said that he didn't think protesting was "a good idea." [At some point, I'd like to ask these people what their concept of a good idea is, now that they've mastered rolling over and playing dead.]
So there we went, the four of us in our little car caravan - our signs carefully hidden in the back seat - down the mountain road in the pouring rain into Townsend. I'm firmly convinced the rain was my payback for not making it to D.C. There were police and Secret Service everywhere along these tiny mountain back-roads. And when we finally pulled off at the "rest area" where we wanted to stand, it took less than five seconds for a police car to screech into the area to tell us to leave. No one was allowed to stand "on the side of the road." They couldn't stop us from standing on private property, said the man in the black suit, but we had to be at least 30 feet back from the road. David asked the officer where he was from and he said "Kentucky". I guess they had to call in the reinforcements.
We left just as the second police car arrived, and drove on down the road to the parking lot of a "mountain stone dealer," who said sure - we could park there to wave at the president. According to our radios, Air Force One had just landed, with all the local media excitement and step-by-step narrative that you'd expect from East Tennessee. "The door is opening. The President is coming out first. He's stepping smartly down the steps. He's walking smartly (as opposed to dumbly??) over to a group of school children. They're reaching out. He's touching their hands." (I was gagging). After that, the motorcade left and we were treated to a steady diet of Dr. Laura and Rush Limbaugh, so we turned the radio off and waited.
By this time, several locals had pulled into the parking lot for the "big event". A mother brought her two children to see the motorcade. When the two youngsters stepped out of their van and waved to a passing police car, the car screeched to a halt, slammed into reverse and sped into the gravel parking lot. It was Officer Kentucky in the black suit telling soccer mom and her all-American kids to STAND BACK FROM THE STREET. The children looked stricken and quickly piled back into the safety of their van. Lee commented that if it was Al Gore making the trip, it would be an entirely different scene - and what a shame it was that this was what America had come to. I sadly agreed.
THE RESIDENT ARRIVES ON THE SCENE!