Miami Impeachment Protest

n Saturday April 28, 2007, 1,500 Miami Dade College students participated
in a graduation ceremony featuring guest speaker President Bush. Despite
the Miami Herald’s predictions that Bush would receive “more cheers than
heckles,” a group of people equal in size to the number of graduates greeted
the president with a criminal’s welcome. On the same day that activists
in cities across the country took to the streets calling for the impeachment
of Bush and Cheney, more than 1,000 people confronted Bush with a wall
of opposition along the entryway of the Kendall, Florida campus. 

In an April 27 article, “Cheers likely for Bush at MDC speech,” the Miami
quoted accounting and economics teacher Maria Mari saying, “This
is a commuter school. Students don’t stick around” to plan protests. Yet,
the number of young protestors was equal if not greater than the number
of aged activists. Luis Cuevas, Florida state coordinator of the Progressive
Democrats of America, was impressed by the turnout. “I think it’s a wonderful
experience to see so many people, particularly very young people, present
at this place,” he said. 

First-time protestor 25-year-old Miami resident Cassandra Wendels said
the event was both positive and empowering. “This is actually my first
event,” she said. “It’s nice to feel so much energy from other people so
that it makes the whole point stronger. It’s nice to know you’re not sitting
home and watching the shit on TV that you’re actually there, you’re in
it. I’m going to get off my couch a lot more and make a whole lot of other
people get off of their couches a lot more and be here.” 

Responding to the Herald’s contention that Bush was almost guaranteed a
friendly welcome, Miami Beach resident Dave Patlack said he felt like protesters
stood up to the paper’s challenge. “This is hugely successful,” he said.
“The Miami Herald on Friday threw down the gauntlet to South Florida activists
and said, show it. And we did, today. This is the largest outpouring against
Bush we’ve had in Miami Dade county. This is a blue county and we don’t
want Bush here. He’s a bad example for commencement. This should be a day
of celebration for the students, their families, the staff, the teachers.
But today we feel the pain that Bush brought to this country through his
lies, through his integrity loss, through the terrors that he has brought
throughout the world.” 

Despite the solid showing from a city often labeled politically apathetic,
many news reports failed to portray the event accurately. In its online
story, “Protestors Greet President Bush With Jeers,” CBS 4, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale
inaccurately reported that only “dozens of protestors voiced their disapproval
of the President’s actions in Iraq,” during Bush’s commencement speech
(April 28, 2007). The short article went on, “Not everyone at the protest
had something bad to say about Mr. Bush. Even though they were in the minority,
there were some people who had nothing but good things to say about the
president’s performance.” 

Actually, at the height of the event, around 5:00 PM, less than a half-dozen
Bush supporters waded through a sea of more than 1,000 anti-Bush protestors.
While the South Florida Sun-Sentinel had no trouble reporting that the
president spoke to “1,600 of the College’s 8,000 graduates,” the paper
demeaned the protest twice, stating, “hundreds of protestors” had gathered
outside of the college. One of the event’s many organizers, Simon Rose,
press secretary for Democracy for America, Miami, believes inaccurate crowd
estimates are unforgivable. “Before you cite a number, if you say hundreds
then you better make darn sure you’ve counted the number of people rather
than arbitrarily throwing out a number. I know several people who counted
well over a thousand.” 

Even more important than the media’s low-balling of protest attendance,
Rose believes the ratio of supporters to detractors was the real story
that went unreported. “What was really significant is that there were over
1,000 protestors against his policies as opposed to maybe half-a-dozen
supporters,” said Rose. “To me, it is almost shameful that the media isn’t
reporting that, the tremendous ratio of protestors versus supporters. Frankly,
I expected a lot more supporters of the president to show up. I felt very
good about how few did show-up, it’s so telling.” 

Among those at the event were Miami Dade College graduates, punk rock musicians
performing anti-war anthems, activists with bullhorns bellowing for impeachment,
college and high school students, members of the Unitarian Universialists,
a couple holding helium field balloons with “Impeach” slogans, and middle
aged men and women across the ethnic spectrum. 

Brad Shaw, an African-American from Miami, said he came to the protest
to “stop Bush and his crimes against us all…. He needs to respect us
all,” said Shaw, adding, “Bring our troops home, they need to come home
and see their kids, they need to be back home with us.” 

Graduate art student Jacqueline Gopie who attends Miami’s Florida International
University, set-up her paper-mache anti-Bush work on the side of the road.
Describing the piece, Gopie said, “I have a cartoon that Jim Moran did
where one hand he’s bleeding Iraq, he’s like ‘Oh, I can’t.’ This is the
first time he’s ever enacted the veto and this is what he uses it for.
So I just put all of these articles of people, the names of the dead, people
who have been killed, various stories about the Iraq war and just put them
all over his body to show how hypocritical it is. 

“It’s in reaction to the statement Bush made when he signed a veto of a
bill that was going to increase funding for stem-cell research,” she said.
“He said he didn’t want to allow stem-cell research because it would mean
the murdering of innocent lives.” 

A Gainesville resident, Cuevas, bolstered the event’s impeachment theme
by dressing as an imprisoned Dick Cheney. “This is part of the backbone
campaign— —we carry across the country to places where there
are activities,” he said. “And what we want to do is attract attention
to the problems and to the individuals that have caused it. And at the
same time to bring attention to the activities of the activists who are
against the war.” 

Rose believes the event was an indication that Miami is a city waking from
its slumber. “This was by far the largest demonstration in the county since
the FTAA protest,” he said. “Miami is always being accused of being apathetic
and so many people turned out for this thing. That’s a story in itself,
that Miami is getting the message.” 


Jeff Nall is an activist and freelance writer and photographer.