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Protesters Disrupt Bush Speech in L.A.

February 07, 1990|CATHLEEN DECKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Protesters infiltrated a Republican fund-raiser in Los Angeles and shouted down President Bush in mid-speech Tuesday night before being removed by security guards.

"You are killing children in El Salvador," one woman screamed at Bush, who appeared startled and broke off his address before a $1,000-a-plate dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City.

"You profess to be a man of God! You profess to be an Episcopalian!" shouted another.

As the women were dragged out of the ballroom, one Republican in attendance lunged toward one of the protesters--identified as Mary Brent Wehrli of the Southern California Interfaith Task Force on Central America--pulling open her blouse.

After the women were out of the room, the President quipped: "Pretty tough."

Police said the two women--and three other protesters who interrupted the fund-raiser--would probably be cited for misdemeanor trespassing and released with a promise to appear in court.

The interruptions inside came as hundreds of protesters massed outside the hotel, chanting anti-Bush slogans and waving signs. Nine people were arrested before the crowd dispersed, police said.

Earlier, a protester rented a room at the hotel and hung from his window a bedsheet emblazoned: "Bush Kills People with AIDS, Women and Central Americans."

A stink bomb was set off in the hotel Tuesday afternoon.

The outside protests involved groups protesting AIDS funding, the Bush Administration's Central American policy, its anti-abortion rights stance and the local spraying of malathion to combat the Medfly.

Bush arrived in Los Angeles midway through a two-day California swing in which he is emphasizing defense.

In addition to the two women who interrupted Bush's speech, other protesters espousing different causes also disrupted the fund-raiser.

With Bush sitting at the head table, a man who identified himself as Michael Breault, a Jesuit brother, stood and shouted: "George Bush paid for the bullets that killed my Jesuit brothers.

"The killing has to stop," added Breault, referring to the recent slayings of Jesuit priests and their housekeeper in El Salvador. Right-wing Salvadoran army troops have been implicated in the killings.

Later, outside the ballroom, Breault said his protest was a "moral compulsion. . . . It's important to find a public forum for the truth."

Another of the protesters, who shouted down emcee Johnny Grant, said she had AIDS.

"George Bush, I have AIDS. What are you doing, George?" she asked.

A woman protesting U.S. policies in Central America interrupted a reception outside the ballroom. She unfurled a banner with pictures purportedly showing bodies of several people killed in the conflict in El Salvador.

"President Bush, stop the killing in El Salvador," she pleaded before being escorted away by security. "Stop the killing, please."

Police said she would be booked for investigation of misdemeanor trespassing.

Outside the hotel on the Avenue of the Stars, about 80 Los Angeles police officers wearing riot gear broke up the crowd of approximately 600 chanting demonstrators, arresting nine after they lay down in the street.

"After they started blocking the street, we gave orders to disperse," said Capt. Vance Proctor. "They were taken into custody for failure to disperse. Most of the people moved when we asked them to."

The nine were taken to the West Los Angeles station, where they were booked for investigation of failing to disperse and released with a citation to appear in court, police said.

The protesters included sign-carrying AIDS activists, pro-choice advocates, opponents of U.S. intervention in Panama and El Salvador and critics of malathion spraying.

The President was hanged in effigy on a tree in front of the hotel. A sign around the neck of the dummy read: "The war on drugs is a war on the people."

Ellen Nadel, a pro-choice activist, said, "We hoped to let Bush know that a lot of people resent his policies, and that his policies are not representing the people like they are supposed to."

Sarah Bradshaw, one of several people who lay down in the street, said, "People have to do something. Too many people are dying. We just need to keep supporting each other." She was not among those arrested.

Other demonstrators chanted, "Out of Salvador and into the streets."

When police gave the order to disperse about 7:40 p.m., some people turned and walked away, but most slowly backed toward Constellation Boulevard, still chanting and thrusting their fists into the air.

"Why don't you arrest George Bush?" a retreating demonstrator cried. "George Bush is a murderer."

Bush's trip to California was intended, in part, to smooth over any Republican feelings hurt because of his infrequent visits to the state since the inauguration.

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