Hahn noted that the group actually marched together to the site from the university, through St. Peter's Catholic Church on North Fourth Street and through the downtown area to line up along Adams Street between Third and Fourth streets, less than a block from the rally site at the Old Fort Steuben. Throughout the walk, the demonstrators sang and prayed, carrying pro-life signs.
"We're here to challenge Sen. Kerry that if he has the same faith as we have, then he needs to fully embrace the church's teachings on life," said Emily Bissonnette, one of the group organizers and a student at the university.
Senator Kerry's aides initially tried to block the protestors from attending the rally, provoking a dispute between the Kerry campaign and Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdallah, who defended the right of the demonstrators to be present at the event:
However, a Kerry official contended that the protesters would not be allowed inside the private rally which was open only to those with tickets.
"Not inside the event," an unidentified Kerry official said.
"They have a right to do whatever they want to do as long as they don't interfere," Abdalla countered.
And protest they did -- here's an eyewitness account that Father Wilson posted to Amy Welborn's blog:
There were many good signs: I used "Pontius Pilate was also personally opposed" , but Laura's was most effective: a bright florescent hot pink sign saying "Kerry" with a slash through it. She worked her way to the front of the crowd and stood on a chair holding it high. She clearly saw Kerry look at the only hot pink sign in the entire crowd several times and get slightly flustered. Other signs: "Kerry is bad for steel" (he's in the pocket of the enviros - that really pisses off the steel community here), "Unfit for command" (thanks for the ideas, guys!), "Steubenville for Bush!", "Taxpayers for Bush", etc.
At one point, Kerry said "To all you Republicans in the crowd..." I couldn't hear the rest over the deafening boooos!
[John Kerry] had no idea what hit him: we were all lined up along the fence (a whole city block) and there were ONLY pro-Bush, anti-Kerry, pro-life signs along the entire fence. Several of his staff gave us very nasty looks - they couldn't believe that someone (the police! - most of whom are Republicans here) let us in the venue with those protest signs. (BTW, he tried to come last month and the Kerry camp was turned down by the head of the local firemen's union - another republican).
Perhaps the highlight of the night was this: John Glenn introduced Kerry. During his introduction, at a moment when the entire crowd was silent and during a pause in his intro, Regis Martin (a fellow prof here) yelled at the top of his voice to the great consternation of the Democrats: "Go back to the Moooon!"
The Associated Press downplayed the event: "Several dozen Bush supporters greeted Kerry in Steubenville with signs favoring a second Bush term and opposing the Catholic Kerry's support for abortion rights."
Updates & Related Links:
- Pro-life groups protest, The Herald-Star, Sept. 5, 2004: "Catholics For Life, a group formed by Franciscan University of Steubenville student Gabe Hahn, led a 400-person march from the university's campus to the rally at Old Fort Steuben." Four hundred students, imagine that.
- Chris Burgwald ("Veritas") posts the content of an email originally sent to Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review with this development:The Kerry campaign not only made a mistake in their timing, but they also chose to hold the rally in a public park which should be open to all the public. . . . The police chief, sheriff, and mayor all agreed with me that protesters and their signs would be allowed inside the Kerry rally site. Freedom of speech is alive and well here in Ohio. The Kerry campaign flipped out!
So, now add another 500 local Bush supporters to the Kerry rally. They tried to turn up the music but they could not drown us out. According to the Herald Star (local press), "The crowd, estimated by officials as 3,500 strong, was almost split in half with people for and against the Massachusetts senator." John Kerry must know he has a problem when over 15% of his audience was booing him. We were respectful and did not heckle him - but upon arrival and when he sought our applause he got something he didn't expect. As the press arrived a feisty nine year old little girl began shouting, "We want Bush!", and we all chanted along. The campaign staff was beside themselves. This is history in the making!
- Redstate has more:They were unlike any protesters seen to that point. Indeed, they insisted they weren't even "protesters." They didn't shout, chant, wave their signs, or disrupt anything, but that did not stop the Kerry peeps from becoming positively apoplectic about their presence. . . . the massive group of peaceful Catholics entered -- with their signs -- and stood, prayerfully, silently, throughout.
The Kerry team, in a final effort to shield JFKerry from possibly being challenged by his co-religionists tried to hold up a banner between poles that would block the view of the peaceful Catholics but the Secret Service put the kibosh on that.
Nothing like the witness of faithful Catholics to send Kerry's team into a state of panic.
- Finally, some recognition by the Washington Times ("Kerry Campaign Denies "Shake-Up" Sept. 7, 2004.):"The size and volume of crowds showing up at rallies to protest Mr. Kerry has grown since the Republican convention ended. At a stop in Steubenville, Ohio, on Saturday night, more than one-third of the audience held anti-Kerry signs, mainly placards that condemned the four-term senator, a Roman Catholic, for supporting abortion rights."
- "Catholics Give Kerry Cool Welcome in Steubenville", LifeSiteNews. Sept. 7, 2004.