Activist groups to protest Bush visit

President Bush shouldn’t expect a warm welcome from every Charleston resident when he comes to town next week.

Two local activist groups — West Virginia Patriots for Peace and the Citizen Action Group — are planning to protest Bush’s Wednesday visit to a South Hills residence for a private campaign fundraiser for Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito.

From 4:45 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Patriots for Peace will display its “Wall of Remembrance,” which includes the names of nearly 2,500 U.S. soldiers killed in the Iraq war, along the South Side Bridge.

The wall consists of 31 plastic panels and stretches nearly three-quarters of a football field.

Perhaps the president will catch a glimpse of the rally en route to the fundraiser, which will be held at the Loudon Heights Road home of Mary and Drew Payne.

The Capito reception begins at 6:30 p.m. and is closed to the public and the media. Sources say up to 2,000 people have been invited, and it costs $4,200 per couple to attend.

Patriots for Peace and Citizen Action Group will host their own reception, “Real Food for Real West Virginians,” from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Davis Park.

“Instead of a Bush bash at $4,200 a couple, we’re going to have pinto beans, cornbread, lemonade and homemade cookies at $4.20 a couple,” Patriots for Peace president Carrie Swing said.

Net proceeds will go to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, an initiative to build a rehabilitation hospital for Iraq war veterans in San Antonio, Texas.

Even if Bush doesn’t see the protests, Swing hopes to inform the public about what her group calls an unjustified war.

“We can’t let him come to town without doing something about it,” Swing said.

Patriots for Peace is a Charleston-based anti-war group with 12 members on its board. The Citizen Action Group advocates for better public policy, basic rights and a cleaner environment.

In February, dozens of Patriots for Peace protesters rallied on Quarrier Street against presidential adviser Karl Rove’s visit to the Charleston Civic Center.

Swing invites anyone to join the protests.

“We will publicize the real costs of this war, the loss of human life,” she said.

Bush’s prior visits to Charleston also have seen opposition.

Nicole and Jeff Rank were arrested on criminal trespassing charges and removed from a Bush rally at the state Capitol Complex on July 4, 2004.

The Ranks sported T-shirts critical of the president and were removed from the rally in handcuffs by Charleston police after they refused to cover up their handmade shirts that said, “Love America, Hate Bush.”

Federal officials requested the arrest, but Charleston Mayor Danny Jones and City Council later apologized to the couple. Their criminal charges were dropped.

The location of the Capitol event likely will be swamped with security, and areas of the neighborhood may be blocked off, Jones said Thursday. He said the White House usually doesn’t reveal security details until the day of an event.

Jones said he’s glad the president is coming to Charleston, but he will not attend the fundraiser. The mayor has already donated $2,000 to the Capito campaign.