When Vice President Dick Cheney flew into Grand Junction on Friday for a fund-raiser for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer, anti-war and pro-impeachment protesters organized along two different routes Cheney’s entourage was expected to take to the event.
Joseph Hayes, an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War and now an activist with Veterans for Peace, staked out the corner of 26th and G roads.Hayes was arrested last September in Washington, D.C., at an anti-war die-in. But today would be different. Cheney’s motorcade took H Road instead, and Hayes (middle person in the photo) and the other protesters had to be content with local traffic.
“People need to know the cost of war and question government about going to war,” Hayes said. His sign read: No one should profit from war. “I think we were sold the Iraq War for bogus reasons. It’s about making money.”
Hayes’ service job during the Vietnam War was to identify the bodies of U.S. Air Force men killed in action. He said that was the reason why he became active in the anti-war movement concerning Iraq and joined Veterans for Peace.
The demonstration during Cheney’s visit wasn’t an anomaly for Hayes and the other protesters, members of the local Grand Junction peace group, Voice of Reason. They often stand out on busy corners to hold up anti-war signs during rush-hour times.
“I sometimes take my lunch break to hold anti-war signs on North Avenue,” Hayes said. North Avenue is a main artery through Grand Junction. “And more and more people are showing support,” Hayes added.
Hayes recalled one man in a van with his family stopped to ask him, “Do you know how many soldiers died so you could stand out here and protest?”
“He was very agitated,” Hayes recalled. “I told him, ‘Yes, sir, I do know about soldiers dying,’ and told him about my service in Vietnam.” Hayes noted, “He was apologetic after he heard my story.”
At the Cheney demonstration on 26 and G roads across from Hayes, Eric Rechel and Bill Conrod held up their protest signs to passing motorists. Many honked and waved in support; some stuck out their middle finger; some shook their heads or voiced disapproval.
“In all, we have a 20-to-1 average of people who support our anti-war protests. A lot of people want change,” observed Rechel, a member of the Voice of Reason. “This protest today isn’t just about Cheney. We wanted to remind people over 4,000 U.S. soldiers have died, and we are $3 trillion in debt.”
Conrod has been a Grand Junction resident for only four months. When he read about the Cheney visit protests in the paper, he decided to get involved. “For people to stand by and do nothing about our current administration is like what the Germans did with Hitler in the 1930s.”
Under the watchful eye of a nearby patrol car, the group decided to wrap up its protests at the corner and move on to Cheney’s departing route on H Road. Police had arrested a couple of protesters there earlier.
Suddenly an SUV stopped in front of the group, and a woman rolled down her window to call the demonstrators traitors. “How dare you say those things about our leaders,” she said, pointing to their signs. “You are traitors to our country and our soldiers.”
“Thank you for your comment,” Rechel said. The SUV drove off. “It’s easier to acknowledge people’s opinions than to argue against them,” he said, shrugging.
Hayes gathered his signs, too, and started to walk to his truck. A high-school-aged student in a new sports model Nissan yelled out, “Screw you,” to Hayes. This student was lucky — he didn’t have to face a military draft like students his age during the Vietnam War.
“If the kid only knew what war was about,” Hayes said, shaking his head. “If he only knew.”
Top photo: Protestors at 26 and G roads hoped Cheney would drive by. The motorcade took H Road instead from the airport to the fund-raisier. Second photo: Joseph Hayes. Third photo: Eric Rechel and Bill Conrod wave signs to passing motorists. Fourth photo: Cheney’s plane awaits take-off. Photos by Leslie Robinson