Maryland students protest logging during Bush speech
WASHINGTON - On Friday, several environmental organizations, including campus students, staged a demonstration during a George W. Bush campaign speech, protesting a statement made by the Republican presidential hopeful indicating he would support increased logging in the Northwest.
As Bush addressed a crowd inside Constitution Hall at the Home School Legal Defense Association conference, 20 to 30 demonstrators marched outside, shouting chants such as, "increased logging is not the way to end up here after election day."
The chants of the demonstrators could not be heard inside the hall, but the protesters managed to make themselves seen by Bush as he left the building. They shouted slogans over the noise of the national media asking questions about Pat Buchanan.
"We talked to some of the press folks who were following him around, and he got to see our signs, obviously. We saw the look on his face as he (heard) our little chant," said Kim Delfino, staff attorney with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
The environmental groups, which included USPIRG, The American Lands Alliance and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council were protesting a statement about increasing logging in the Northwest that Bush made in a July 8 statement at Spokane International Airport in Spokane, Wash.
Mindy Tucker, of the Bush campaign, said that she could only restate what Bush had said in the speech. She said that Bush said that if elected president he "would have a reasonable plan for timber harvesting in the national forests." The demonstrators were also protesting Bush's criticism of the Clinton administration for not logging enough on federal lands, Delfino said.
"We've talked to hundreds of thousands of Americans during this campaign. We have done polls of the public, and over and over again we found that the public doesn't want to have increased logging on the national forests. They actually want to protect the national forests," Delfino said. "So part of the demonstration today is just to point out to Gov. Bush that he's out of step with what the American public wants."
Students attending the demonstration were members of the campus chapter of MaryPIRG, a statewide public interest research group.
"Every now and then, the USPIRG will call us up and say 'Hey, we could use some manpower,'" said senior natural resource management major Julie Jackson.
Stephen Reiling, a junior biological resource engineering major, said he was there to sway Bush's opinion.
"I went just hoping to influence, change whatever I can," Reiling said. "Just to let those in charge know that there's a group of students, and those outside of the college, concerned with our national forests. The goal of the demonstration was to get his attention, and I think we definitely did that."
The demonstration was also part of a larger campaign by USPIRG to raise presidential candidates' awareness of the issue of logging in national forests, particularly.
"We are bird-dogging presidential candidates from around the country," Delfino said. "We've gotten George Bush about four times so far. We were at the straw poll in Iowa. We've done (presidential candidate Bill) Bradley about four or five times. We've done this with (vice-president Al) Gore about five times also. And we'll be keeping it up throughout the race. We're not going to just fade into the woodwork."