Jeb Bush gets rude welcome

Police disperse angry protesters in Downtown T-station

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Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in town for a fund-raiser for Sen. Rick Santorum, had a close encounter with a large group of anti-Republican protesters as he was making his way to the Duquesne Club, Downtown.

It was about 4:15 yesterday when Mr. Bush met up with the protesters near the corner of Liberty and Sixth avenues. The protesters were marching to join other pickets already gathered in front of the exclusive club, a little more than a block away at 325 Sixth Ave.

Protesters said Gov. Bush blew them a kiss, acknowledging the crowd of about 30 chanting pickets that was made up of United Steelworkers and members of Uprise Counter Recruitment, a tour traveling through 22 cities to support anti-war efforts.

The protesters came closer.

"Jeb, go home," they shouted.

Mr. Bush, accompanied by a security guard and a female aide, made a slow retreat toward the T-station at Wood Street.

"He was quickly getting out of the way and not wanting to engage us," said Jon Vandenburgh, one of the protesters, who also is a researcher for the United Steelworkers.

Once in the subway station, Mr. Bush scurried to the escalators and descended to the mezzanine level, Mr. Vandenburgh said.

By now, Mr. Bush was cornered. He was surrounded by signs that said "Pittsburgh is a Santorum Free Zone," "Honk if you're sick of Rick," and a crowd growing increasingly louder, according to Mr. Vandenburgh.

"We don't want you here," protesters chanted.

Port Authority spokesman Bob Grove said six or seven officers responded to the scene to control the crowds.

He said Mr. Bush had been walking in the area near the T-station and the incident happened spontaneously when about 50 pickets "tailed him and stayed with him and went into the Wood Street station."

About 75 protesters remained on the street, said Mr. Grove.

He said the crowd was asked repeatedly to disperse.

Mr. Grove said a Port Authority canine unit was called in to help with crowd control. Two officers used their tasers to stun two protesters who "were asked to leave, but did not go," Mr. Grove said.

The tasers he said were empty of the cartridges that supply a more powerful charge.

"It was a very tense situation. They were very close to the governor and shouting on top of him."

As a precaution, the governor was ushered into a T-station supply closet and stayed there until the crowd left.

No arrests were made and no citations were issued, Mr. Grove said. Mr. Bush was not injured.

The two men who were tasered were shaken and left the protest, said David Meieran, with the Thomas Merton Center and one of the protesters with Uprise Counter Recruitment.

Mr. Meieran said the Port Authority officers were fairly aggressive and pushed them aside.

Pittsburgh police said they monitored the protest in front of the Duquesne Club, which they called peaceful, but did not respond to the incident in the T-station.

The entire incident lasted about 5 minutes. After calm was restored, the smaller group of protesters inside the T-station made their way back to the Duquesne Club where they staked out the front of the building and an alley entrance.

Mr. Vandenburgh and Mr. Meieran said they later saw Mr. Bush escorted to the Duquesne Club, which he entered through a back door at about 5 p.m.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bush said she was unaware of the incident last night and had no immediate comment.


Ervin Dyer can be reached at edyer@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1410.


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