By Peggy Mackenzie
“What kind of citizen would I be if I didn’t protest someone who supports torture and war profiteering?” asked a sign-bearer reading “Shame on the WV Chamber of Commerce.”
That’s the point of view of several of the more than 50 West Virginia citizens who came out on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 3, to protest the presence of the WV Chamber of Commerce’s keynote speaker, former Vice President Dick Cheney, at The Greenbrier.
Homemade signs and placards were on view to passing vehicles, and sometimes people honked their horns in support of the demonstration.
The group represented citizens from Greenbrier, Monroe, Pocahontas and Kanawha counties, most carrying banners reflecting the many grievances held against Cheney for his involvement in Iraq, 9/11 attacks, and the Haliburton loophole in the Clean Water and Clean Air acts.
The day was a warm one and the protestors had to keep moving on the sidewalks along Rte. 60 at the entrance of the hotel, where state police and Greenbrier security employees made sure no one was loitering or standing on Greenbrier property. The atmosphere was respectful and well-mannered, even as several in the group shouted call and response slogans: “Once you frack, you can’t go back!” and “I say Cheney, you say loophole!”
Protesters were willing to comment on their reasons for participating in the protest, but some were not willing to give their names for fear of repercussions at their places of employment – but not all had that concern.
“Dick Cheney represents everything that’s bad in this country,” stated protestor Greg Zafros, “that includes profiteering, war mongering, selfishness, greed, and economic disaster.”
“No Iraqi never called me inbred, but Dick Cheney did,” said a “concerned citizen.”
“Even Republicans need to drink clean water,” said another.
“We need to get Big Money out of politics and go back to one person, one vote.”
“It’s an embarrassment to West Virginia that the state chamber of commerce would invite a war criminal to speak. If he were anywhere in the European Union, he’d be in jail,” stated Chuck Wyrostok.
“There are two languages spoken here in the United States,” said Carli Marenek. “One speaks for profit and the other speaks for preservation. The time for seeing beyond short-term profits is overdue. We are protesting today to preserve water, even for those profiteers. We hope to wake them up in time.”
Leslee McCarty, whose efforts set this protest in motion, said the turnout far exceeded her expectations. “I’m just happy to see so many people out today, she exclaimed. “So many came from all over West Virginia to take a stand! They are heroes.” She urged taking a stand against the pipelines and fracking occurring in West Virginia. “All thanks to Dick Cheney!”
Quoting from her letter to the editor in the Sept. 3 issue of the Charleston Gazette, McCarty said, “I don’t blame Dick Cheney and his daughter for coming to the Greenbrier to speak. It’s what they do. They have a book out. They are on a book tour. I blame the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the state Republican party. I’m not seeing much daylight between the Chamber and the GOP, given the Chamber’s overwhelming support of Republican candidates in West Virginia.“But why invite Dick Cheney?”
“If you didn’t know Cheney is a controversial figure, then you must be living under a rock!” said another protester.
It was clear to everyone at the protest that Cheney would never witness the event, but the aim was to preserve a memory of the crimes that many feel he generated during his time in office.
Protesters reported to the Mountain Messenger that they were harassed by hotel security.