By Harvey Wasserman
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DALLAS, TEXAS -- Two activists wearing large paper mache masks resembling former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney were arrested Thursday for stepping into a street during a protest of the George W. Bush presidential library.
The arrests, mere blocks away from the library on the Southern Methodist University campus, were the high-water mark of a protest that drew about 200 people, many of them wearing black clothing and white masks, carrying cards with the names of soldiers and civilians who died in Iraq, Afghanistan, and from suicide here in the U.S.
As all five surviving presidents were parading before cameras to celebrate the controversial legacy of the younger Bush, activist Dennis Trainor Jr. and Iraq veteran Gary Egelston plodded down a walk alongside Interstate-75, wrapped in chains drawn by members of Code Pink.
Photo by Stephen C. Webster.
Police confronted the duo after protesters stepped into a street, seemingly under the impression that they could since one lane had already been blocked off to vehicle traffic. Officers formed a line in front of them and would not allow the march to proceed. Seconds later, apparently realizing they were about to be arrested, Code Pink members tried to pull Trainor and Egelston back from police, sparking a brief tug-of-war as the arrests ensued.
The men's masks were torn off as they were thrown to the ground, cuffed and taken away. A third man, photographer Bill Perry, walked into the same street several moments later, attempting to use a crosswalk a little further down at the corner. When police moved to block him, he objected to what he believed to be an arbitrary rule -- "When did the rules change?" he bellowed -- and was quickly put in the back of a police car.
On the opposite side of the street, throngs of Bush administration alumni wearing their Sunday best walked past unimpeded as demonstrators shouted, "Shame! Shame! Shame!" banging on drums and accusing them of supporting a war criminal. At one point, police appeared to be selectively trying to determine who looked like a likely Bush library supporter and who did not, allowing well dressed-individuals to pass but turning away people in jeans and t-shirts.
"It was an appalling use of brutal force immediately," Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin said in an advisory. "What happened to a warning or a request, 'Sir, hands behind your back?'"
All three men have since been released.
This video of the arrests was captured by an activist with The Backbone Campaign on April 25, 2013.
This video of "The March of the Dead" was filmed by Stephen C. Webster on April 25, 2013.
This video of "The People's Response to the Bush Library" protest was filmed by Stephen C. Webster on April 25, 2013.
Stephen C. Webster is an Austin-based journalist and senior editor of The Raw Story, one of America's top progressive news websites. His work has previously appeared in publications such as The Dallas Business Journal, Fort Worth Weekly, Austin Monthly and The Lone Star Iconoclast, among others.