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Dissent stiffled during State of the Union

Two accounts of what happened before and during Bush's deceitful address to a weak Congress on Jan. 31st. The first is from someone who I was marching and protesting with last night. The second is a news story on what happened to Cindy Sheehan inside the Capitol Building. Read on and think about what this means for our country:

From a D.C. Anti-War Network participant (www.dawndc.net)

Later today, possibly tonight, I'll be sharing a report from the streets
outside the Capitol from activists who weren't inside the Capitol like
Cindy Sheehan and who weren't waiting around with the World Can't Wait.

To preview, let me give you a recap of a few of the highlights. At about
7:30 PM, a group of 15 activists launched into the streets from Judiciary
Square. At 3rd before we reached Constitution, Capitol police rushed us
with batons, throwing some activists to the sidewalk, cursing at them.

Most of us proceeded to Independence Avenue. When people walking with a
banner edged into the street, a group of 11 people found itself facing off
with 200 Capitol Police.

That tipped us off that was indeed Bush's route, and so we inundated
Bush's motorcade with sound as it rushed by at high speeds.

During the speech, we ultimately decided to walk toward the back side of
the Capitol where we had several other exchanges with Capitol Police.
They ultimately chose to follow us with no less than 10 motorcycles along
the streets of DC.

We made it back to Independence Avenue via Third Street by the end, this
time on the Metro Police side of 3rd. There we were greeted by dozens of
DC police, who moved along with us and made a point of attempting to block
signs, sending officers to stand directly in front of signs and to move as
the signs or people moved.

At the end, with a lot of noisemakers and the chance appearance of the
Rhythm Workers Union, we saw Bush pass by again and inundated the
motorcade with protest noise.

The situation on the street belied whatever it was that Bush said he was
fighting for inside. What was going on went beyond needed security; it
was a visible attempt to stifle disent.

More hopefully later, but I wanted to get this much now.

----------

A Governor and a Mayor Speak Up for Democrats
The party faithful show their displeasure with the president even before Virginia's Kaine and L.A.'s Villaraigosa have their say.

By Richard Simon and Faye Fiore, Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — The governor of a Republican-leaning state and the Latino mayor of Los Angeles delivered the Democratic rebuttal to President Bush's State of the Union speech Tuesday night, sounding themes the party hopes will help it take control of Congress in November's elections.

The Democrats expressed their displeasure with Bush's policies in several other ways. The party paid for an anti-Bush television ad that aired before the president took the podium.

A California congresswoman invited Cindy Sheehan to the speech, but the antiwar activist was arrested before it began.

And during the address, the Democratic side of the aisle gave Bush a rousing — albeit sarcastic — standing ovation when he bemoaned his failure to overhaul Social Security.

In the "official" responses to the speech, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa assailed Bush on a number of fronts — including his handling of the war in Iraq, implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit and his failure to bring down energy prices.

Kaine argued repeatedly in his nationally televised remarks that "there's a better way" to grapple with issues than Bush had chosen. He called for a greater emphasis on public service by Americans.

Villaraigosa, who offered the Spanish-language response to Bush's speech, criticized the president for offering "the same defense of the very policies that have divided this country over the last five years."

Party leaders hoped Kaine, who took office last month, and Villaraigosa, elected last year, would appeal to voters as "new faces" within the party. Other political calculations also figured into their being selected for the State of the Union rebuttals.

Kaine was picked as part of the Democratic bid to increase the party's appeal to voters in GOP-leaning states. And with a number of better-known Democrats considering presidential runs in 2008, the selection of Kaine also saved party leaders from having to make a difficult decision.

The choice of Villaraigosa reflected the growing battle between the two parties for the allegiance of Latino voters.

Before Bush's speech, a Democratic-sponsored ad ran on television featuring GOP lawmakers, including former Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, cheering Bush at previous State of the Union addresses. The ad accused Republicans of catering to special interests.

DeLay stepped aside from his leadership job in September after he was charged in Texas with violating the state's campaign finance laws, and Democrats have been trying to depict him as a symbol for what they allege is a "culture of corruption" in the GOP-controlled Congress.

Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq and who last year emerged as one of the war's most visible critics, was invited to the speech by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma). But before Bush entered the House chamber, Sheehan was escorted from the visitors gallery by police. They arrested her for "unlawful conduct."

A police spokeswoman said Sheehan was wearing an antiwar T-shirt in violation of a policy against demonstrations inside the chamber.

For much of the speech, Democrats refused to applaud, some sitting resolutely with arms crossed.

But Bush received his standing ovation from Democrats when he referred to the failure of Congress to act on restructuring Social Security, the major domestic proposal in his speech last year. This year, Bush settled for proposing that a commission be formed to study problems facing Social Security and other entitlement programs.

After the address, Democrats stepped up their attacks in a barrage of on-camera interviews, e-mails and press releases.

Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, the party's 2004 presidential nominee, called Bush's positive description of the state of the union a "fantasyland."

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California complained that Bush "gave short shrift to the mess they made" in dealing with Hurricane Katrina.

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