Anti-Bush Protests In NYC

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This story was written by CBSNews.com's Scott Conroy.


The 22nd Amendment ensures that a new commander in chief will be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009. But some Americans aren't willing to wait that long.

To mark the one-year anniversary of President Bush's reelection Wednesday, a group called The World Can't Wait staged rallies at sites across the United States, calling for radical change in Washington.

"We seek to create a political situation where the Bush administration's program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking U.S. society is reversed," the group, which formed last summer, said in its mission statement.

The rallies came at a time at which the Bush administration may be at its weakest point since it assumed power in 2001. The government's response to Hurricane Katrina and the rising death toll in Iraq, and the indictments of the top House Republican and a senior administration official have further emboldened the opposition. According to a CBS News poll conducted this week, Mr. Bush's job approval rating is now 35 percent, the lowest number of his presidency. Organizers of Wednesday's rallies hoped to utilize this rocky time for the Republican establishment to tap into public discontent and generate steam for their movement.

"I think people have a sense that history is turning right now. It's kind of a Rosa Parks moment," World Can't Wait supporter and author Larry Everest said.

The New York rally drew a crowd of what appeared to be thousands of protesters, who ranged in their political affiliations from moderate Democrats to members of the Revolutionary Communist Party. But the demonstration was not able to attract the hundreds of thousands of people and significant media attention that past anti-war protests generated.

"I wish there were more people here," Janice Bryant of New York said. "I don't understand what everybody's thinking in this country. What do people need to understand that these people in this administration need to go?"

While the World Can't Wait organization hopes to initiate a public drive that will eventually force President Bush out of the White House, the group does not attempt to lay out the chain of events that would produce such an outcome. Some protesters in New York admitted to feeling somewhat powerless and were not optimistic about the prospects of a regime change in Washington.

"Democrats are in a catch-22 situation because they have the evidence to impeach him. The Downing Street memos are like a smoking gun ... but the House is Republican, the Senate is Republican and the courts are Republican," a protester named Anthony, who didn't want to reveal his last name, asserted.

The group is certainly not afraid to take controversial stances, and its Web site repeatedly warns that the United States government is headed toward fascism. But that has not stopped several prominent critics of the Bush administration from lending their support to the group, including iconic writers Gore Vidal and Kurt Vonnegut, "peace mom" Cindy Sheehan and the winner of the 2005 Noble Prize for literature, Harold Pinter.

"The Bush administration is the most dangerous force that has ever existed. It is more dangerous than Nazi Germany because of the range and depth of its activities and intentions worldwide," Pinter wrote in a statement to the group.

A significant number of attendees at the New York rally were high school and college students who walked out of class or played hooky for the day in order to attend the event. Maris Gelman is a 14-year-old student at The Bard High School Early College, but on this day she traded in her school clothes for the "Resist Or Die!" t-shirt that was popular among youths at the rally.

"I think that Bush is really driving our country into a hole, and it's inappropriate. We don't need this, we need to get better," she said.

A small group of about a dozen counter-protesters stood outside the designated area that NYPD officers had cordoned off and waved American flags. Sarah Chambers, a member of the NYU College Republicans, was one of them. She held up her homemade poster that read "Hippies Go Home!" and criticized the rallies' organizers for telling kids to skip school in order to come to the event.

"I think a lot of them don't really know what's going on," she said of the contingency of high school students. "I don't know how educated many of them are as far as the actual issues. I think it's kind of a bandwagon effect."

By Scott Conroy
By Scott Conroy
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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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