CourierPostOnline

Democrats To Protest At President's Event

CourierPostOnline — Wednesday, May 30, 2007

By ERICA HARBATKIN
Gannett State Bureau

EDISON — President Bush will be coming to Edison today, and New Jersey residents on both sides of the aisle have been diligently preparing for his arrival.

On the GOP side, the Republican State Committee has organized the fundraiser and sold tickets for $300 and photo opportunities with the president for $5,000. Various Democratic organizations, meanwhile, have come together to organize protests near the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, where the event will be held.

Before Bush speaks to the crowd of supporters, a group of Democratic organizations will greet passers-by with an event of their own: a demonstration from the parking lot next to the Holiday Inn and Harold's Deli on King Georges Post Road.

"The president coming to New Jersey is really a slap in the face, we feel, to the vast sentiment among most New Jerseyans," said Eve Weissman, an organizer for New Jersey Citizen Action, one of the primary groups involved in the event. "New Jerseyans really feel that the Bush agenda is not in sync with the values of New Jersey working families. . . . And we really want to call attention to the fact that New Jerseyans are really upset with the current state of affairs in Iraq."

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-Long Branch, state Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, and state Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, D-Union, will speak at the rally. The demonstration will involve Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, the Teamsters Union, Democracy for America, the New Jersey Stonewall Democrats and the New Jersey Impeach Group. Speeches will go from 3 to 4 p.m.

Township police, meanwhile, will be working with the Secret Service, the Middlesex County Sheriff's Office, the state police, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office and the township police auxiliary to provide security for the event, said township spokesman Jerry Barca.

Raritan Center Parkway will be closed upon the president's arrival and departure, but the specific times could not be released for security reasons.

Protesters will be sectioned off on King Georges Post Road.

While no official counterprotests have been planned by Republican groups, a post on www.freerepublic.com, a conservative news site, call for Bush administration supporters to "counter-protest the dimwits."

But many of the president's supporters will be inside. In addition to those who paid for the chance to stand in a room with the president, volunteers will help run the event.

And while the sentiment among the left may be negative, one of those volunteers, Jamie Saults, of Freehold said there's plenty of excitement throughout the area.

"The people that I talked to are really excited to have the president come to New Jersey . . . and to be able to possibly meet him is fabulous," Saults said. "Do they agree with everything that he's done? Probably not. But on the whole he's done a good job, I think the bottom line is that's probably one of the most difficult jobs on the planet. You're not going to please all people all the time."

The president will arrive on Air Force One and attend a VIP reception before speaking to the group in the main reception room, said Todd Riffle, director of communications for the New Jersey Republican State Committee.

While the event is being held to raise money for the Republican State Committee, the protesters planning to be outside all have different agendas.

The New Jersey Stonewall Democrats, a grass-roots gay rights organization, will be protesting the president's stance on gay and lesbian Americans.

"This administration has been horrible for the gay community and has used us as a scapegoat," said Joan Hervey, communications director for the Stonewall Democrats. "We want to show him how we feel about him."

Republican State Committee Chairman Tom Wilson, state Sen. Leonard Lance, R-Clinton Township, Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, R-Parsippany-Troy Hills, and the GOP county chairmen will also attend the event.

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