Protesters greet Bush at St. Pete airport listen10/12/07 Seán Kinane
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Air Force One carrying President Bush touched down at St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport about 9:45 this morning.
Bush was in town to raise money for the Republican National Committee at a fundraiser at the Pinellas Park home of developer Brent Sembler. Almost 100 protesters greeted the president, including 79-year-old Bud Holle, whose son John was killed in 1969 in the Vietnam War.
Michael Freincle has a brother serving in Iraq and told WMNF why he was protesting President Bush’s visit to Pinellas County.
Freincle opposes the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that discriminates by not allowing gays to be employed in the military. About a year ago he was arrested when he tried to enlist in the Army and did a civil sit in when his enlistment was declined because of the policy. Freincle said he would enlist in the Army if they ever drop the “don’t ask, don’t tell” discrimination policy.
Chris Ernesto is with the group St. Pete For Peace.
The fundraiser was only open to people who could afford the$25,000 per plate price tag.
Sharon Haynes said she has been against the war in Iraq since before the invasion and she was also upset that Bush was in town for a fundraiser.
Bettejo Indelicato is with the group Florida Peace Action Network; it holds protests every Friday morning in Port Richey. She went to Iraq in 2003 before the invasion with the peace group that is now called Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
The largest group of protesters gathered at the main airport entrance, but the president's motorcade exited about 500 meters south of that. About a dozen police motorcycles preceded numerous SUVs and limousines, one of which contained the president.
Dani Hemenway, Alexx Krolman, and Alyssa Backus, three students from Bayside High School who had permission from their principal to miss classes in order to document the protest.
The Bayside High School students got to see the motorcade go by, unlike the bulk of the protesters up the street.
Indelicato said she was not suprised Bush avoided the protesters.
A woman whose first name is Cora held a sign with a peace symbol and the words, “back by popular demand.” She said that the reactions by drivers who passed by were generally positive.