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U.S. President George W. Bush
Visits Halifax
December 1, 2004
Andrew D. Wright
Beacon Correspondent

Photo: Extra security

U.S. President George W. Bush came to visit Halifax, Nova Scotia on December 1, 2004. In sharp contrast to the friendly welcome accorded to President Bill Clinton when he visited Halifax in 1995 for the G7 economic conference, President Bush's controversial foreign policy and war on Iraq had made him quite unpopular in Canada. His visit would be short and well guarded. Extra security was everywhere to be found like here, a kilometer away from where he was to talk.

Photo: City Hall protest

Demonstrations against the Bush Administration policies were planned. The Halifax Peace Coalition a group whose website is hosted by the Chebucto Community Net, called upon people to come and bring their own signs for a protest march. This is the gathering crowd in the Parade Square in front of city hall an hour before the march down Barrington Street was to start.

Photo: The gathering crowd

The city hall crowd from another angle. It is clear that all age groups are represented here and the protesters are not just "students looking for a day off classes" as some critics of the protest have claimed. Quite a few people turned out on this grey and damp Wednesday morning.

Photo: The biggest optimist

"Martin Save Our Planet", a sign referring to Canada's Prime Minister Paul Martin, gets my vote for biggest optimist of the protest. One of the sentiments frequently expressed was that this protest was less for President Bush, who frankly would pay no attention to it at all, and more to show Canadian politicians that there are strong objections to Canada following the U.S. foreign policy lead.

Photo: Pro Bush protester

"Thank You America". A lone pro-Bush supporter, whose sign was referring to the ostensible reason for President Bush's visit to Canada, to thank Halifax for taking in stranded jet passengers grounded after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It is worth pointing out that immediately following the attacks President Bush made a point of thanking many countries for their assistance except for Canada, an omission that had lasted three years.

Photo: Large hands

One of the largest protest signs, meant to represent blood-stained hands forming the letter 'W' and the famous one finger salute.

Estimates of the civilian death toll in the Iraq conflict range from 13,000 to over 100,000. The only sure fact is that it is unlikely the real figure will ever be known.

Photo: More protesters arrive

With more than half an hour to go before the march was to start, Barrington Street was solid with arriving protesters.

Photo: Halifax Police acted sensibly

Halifax Police Department are to be commended for their sensible approach to the protest. Note that they are not dressed in riot gear or behaving confrontationally toward the crowd. It is clear that both police and protesters had learned lessons from the 2002 G7 meeting where police had turned the downtown core into a war zone using stun guns, pepper spray and tear gas on protesters who had pushed forward through metal barricades. By adopting a more relaxed and accessible attitude, Halifax Police played no small part in keeping things peaceful and there were no arrests arising from the protest.

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