News Column

Protesters, Supporters Come Out for Causes Along Obama Route

July 18, 2012

Jazmine Ulloa

President Obama revved up thousands of supporters inside Austin Music Hall on Tuesday. But the crowds that waited outside for hours under the sweltering sun were tamer than at past Obama rallies and small for a city that sees multitudes congest its streets during live music events or the unveiling of a Willie Nelson statue.

Hundreds began lining up at the venue in the afternoon shortly before the doors opened in a queue that wrapped around Nueces, Fourth and San Antonio streets. Nearby, though, only about 100 people without tickets gathered at separate corners along lines of yellow tape and barricades, many holding colorful signs, flags and banners for disparate causes -- tax cuts, gay marriage, tar sands, anti-abortion legislation.

At Nueces at Fourth, where a University of Texas bus blocked the street, UT student Walter Trejo stood with other students clutching a large white banner that thanked Obama for recent immigration policy changes and asked him to push for passage of the DREAM Act.

"We want the whole enchilada," the sign read.

Nearby, UT student Nancy Preciado stood by herself nearby with a yellow sign referring to Mexico's recent election: "Obama, Mexicans do not recognize Pena Nieto as president and neither should you."

Several women next to her held posters in opposition of abortion.

Jennie Stone clasped a tan sign that said: "Obama does not speak for me." But she knew a sign would not change the president's mind, she said.

"I am here to speak to supporters," Stone said. "I represent the pro-life majority."

Stephanie Hamm of MoveOn.org, a nationwide political action committee, organized about 60 members who huddled at Second and San Antonio streets. One of their signs read, "We Love You."

"We are endorsing the president with one caveat, and that is that he works with us to reverse Citizens United and get big dollars out of politics," she said, referring to the court decision on corporate campaign contributions.

The loudest group of protesters -- about 40 people -- marched in with Occupy Austin from City Hall. They banged a drum, chanted and carried large banners. "We are the 99 percent," they yelled. "No to multinational exploitation."

"Our message is that we want to hold all political leaders accountable," Occupy Austin member Kit O'Connell said. "Election time is the best time to reach our future leaders."

Outside the Four Seasons Residences, where Obama spoke after the music hall event, a group of Occupy Austin protesters took exception to being ordered across San Jacinto Boulevard by Austin police.

"What's your badge number, officer, what's your badge number?" the crowd shouted, along with chants of "Fascist."

Police Chief Art Acevedo was nearby watching. But while a few arguments broke out among protesters, no one was arrested.

Acevedo said the event went without a hitch, though he acknowledged residents were likely frustrated over the traffic jams.

"There's only one way to move a president, and that's with his safety as the primary concern," Acevedo said.



Source: (c)2012 Austin American-Statesman, Texas. Distributed by MCT Information Services


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