When President Bush visits a South Hills home Wednesday for a political fundraiser, people protesting his war policies will be holding signs along his route and enjoying a bean dinner in a neighboring yard.
Former Charleston Treasurer Drew Payne and his wife, Mary, will host the fundraiser, for Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, at their house on 1414 Louden Heights Road. Mary Payne works in Capito’s campaign office in South Hills.
At the same time, war protesters Patriots for Peace and the West Virginia Citizen Action Group will be holding a cornbread and bean dinner and will set up their “Wall of Remembrance” placards listing the names of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq.
That event will convene at the nearby home of Charleston lawyer James S. Arnold and Phyllis Arnold, his wife and regional president of BB&T.;
The Arnolds, who live at 1400 Connell Road, offered to let the groups use their front yard for their picket line and dinner, said Carrie Swing, president of Patriots for Peace. Previously, the protest and dinner had been planned for the South Side Bridge and Davis Park on Capitol Street.
The Arnolds were out of town on Saturday and unavailable for comment.
Couples invited to attend the Capito fundraiser are expected to contribute the maximum legal campaign contribution of $4,200.
People who attend the bean dinner are expected to pay $4.20 for the food and music performed by local jazz combo Full Flavor, Swing said.
“This was a very generous offer,” Swing said. “It is in close proximity to the other event and will allow us to have our entire event in one place.”
The groups will stretch the name placards, made up of 31 8-foot panels with 81 names each, along Louden Heights Road, she said.
“It is almost as long as a football field,” she said. “We want to bring home to people how many soldiers we have lost.”
Proceeds from the dinner fees will go to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which is building a hospital in Texas for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, she said.
Don Imus, the syndicated radio talk show host, is promoting the Intrepid project. He has already donated $250,000 to help build the trauma rehabilitation center, which is near the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
After the hospital is built with private funds, it will be turned over to the government, organizers have said.
The White House would be better advised to spend some of the president’s transportation expenses on projects such as Intrepid, the bean dinner organizers said.
“One might question the priorities of the government flying the presidential entourage to Charleston for a political fundraiser while citizens across the country hold bake sales to help build a needed veterans’ hospital,” said Norm Steenstra, executive director of WV-CAG.
“I don’t know how many thousands of dollars it takes to bring a president to town,” Swing said. “But they should take that money and put it into that fund to help soldiers sent off to a war we should never have been in.”