Amid extraordinary security for the vacationing President Bush, some 1,500 demonstrators marched noisily but peacefully through this resort town Sunday, demanding more action on the AIDS crisis.
The marchers, blowing whistles and carrying banners, came within half a mile of the Bush family’s seaside compound, where police had erected barricades and were massed to stop any intrusion. In a symbolic “die in” representing the thousands of people who have died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, the demonstrators lay down on Ocean Avenue.
The march was sponsored by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP, known for disruptive tactics and occasional acts of civil disobedience. The march here was peaceful, however, and police said there were no arrests.
About two dozen Maine state troopers were posted outside St. Ann’s Episcopal Church while Bush attended a morning Communion service. Inside, two Secret Service guards stationed next to the kneeling President closely watched each person who approached the altar rail.
Relaxing later on the 11-acre estate, Bush apparently did not see the demonstration but his daughter, Dorothy, jogged through the marchers at the side of the street. Accompanied by a man believed to be a Secret Service agent, she was not recognized by any of the protesters.
Wagging their fingers in reprimand in the direction of the Bush house, the demonstrators shouted “Shame!” and chanted “How many more have to die?”
About 40 troopers from the state police sealed off Ocean Avenue near the Bush home. Most of the officers wore black, winter-uniform gloves or surgical gloves, a sight that drew taunts from the demonstrators.
Hundreds of other officers were deployed throughout Kennebunkport. They stood 10 feet apart in the downtown square, where another “die in” was staged.
Some merchants closed their stores, apparently out of concern over the march, but most businesses were open.
Lawrence Kessler, a member of the federal National Commission on AIDS, said the demonstration was staged to demand leadership on the AIDS problem. He said the President should declare AIDS “the No. 1 domestic crisis of our times.”
Jon Greenberg of ACT UP in New York accused Bush of a “murderous, deliberative negligence.”
“We with this disease, we are all innocent,” Greenberg said. “The real guilt lies with (Bush) . . . who sat by and watched while innocent people die needlessly.”