Last night in East Grand Rapids, a group of around twenty protestors attended a protest organized by Activate, and affiliate of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) outside of the home of Peter Secchia where Vice President Dick Cheney was attending a fundraiser for Senate candidate Michael Bouchard. The group called for an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq with a large banner reading “US Out of Iraq Now” and several smaller signs to the same effect, as well as loudly chanting “Cheney out of Grand Rapids, US out of Iraq” and “No Justice, No Peace, US Out of the Middle East” while playing drums. The group showed up around 5:00pm at what was believed to be the starting point of Cheney’s speech, although it appeared to be the case that the speech had not yet started. By taking a side street and working in a coordinated manner, the group was able to position themselves around 50-feet from the entrance to Secchia’s yard. The police presence was minimal when the group initially showed up and the police were clearly caught off guard. While the group probably could have continued to move closer to Secchia’s home, they were still able to move closer than anyone has gotten at previous visits by Cheney and their presence was clearly known. The group dispersed after being informed that East Grand Rapids has a “no picketing ordinance” and receiving a second warning, as Secret Service members appeared to give the police the order to remove the protestors. Despite the fact that the officer giving the order refused to provide it in writing, subsequent research by Media Mouse confirms that there is an ordinance that prohibits “picketing” in front of “the residence or dwelling of any individual in the city” with picketing being defined as the act of walking, standing, sitting, jogging, running, or other similar activity by any person, whether or not such person is carrying, holding, or displaying a placard, sign, banner, badge, or other similar item.” The fundraiser was closed to both the media and the public, so it is unknown what Cheney said during his talk. Early in the day Cheney spoke at the National Guard Armory on 44th Street in Wyoming where he attempted to justify his contention that the Iraq War is the “central front in the war on terror,” declared Iraq “free,” praised the USA PATRIOT Act, and described how he believes that the domestic surveillance program is necessary (transcript).
The fundraiser was held at the home of Peter Secchia who is a longtime financial supporter of Republican candidates. He raised a substantial amount of money for the two campaigns of President George W. Bush, becoming a “Ranger” or one who raised $200,000 or more in 2004 and a “Pioneer” in the 2000 campaign for raising more than $100,000. Last night’s fundraiser was no different, with the $2,100 per person fundraiser expected to raise $375,000 for Republican candidate for Senate Michael Bouchard and $600,000 for the Republican Party. Furthermore, Secchia gave $42,496 to Republican candidates in 2004, $16,500 in 2002, $21,700 in 2000 and several thousand in elections going back to elections since 1994. He has long-standing roots in the Republican Party, with Secchia working to help defeat religious right candidate and televangelist Pat Robertson in the 1988 Republican primary and following George H.W. Bush’s election that year, Secchia was awarded the position of Ambassador to Italy. He has strong connections to the current administration, with Secchia being partially credited for bringing President Bush to Calvin in May of 2005 and bringing Vice President Dick Cheney to Grand Rapids in 2002 to celebrate his birthday in an incident that garnered media attention for costing the city of Grand Rapids $14,600 in police overtime costs. In Michigan, Secchia is credited with reviving the Michigan GOP in the 1980s and shifting the Party from a more “liberal” conservativism to its current manifestation (source).
Peter Secchia has generated the money that he has used to support Republican candidates as a CEO of the logging company Universal Forest Products, a position that he held from 1971 to 1989 (source). In a 2005 review of Universal Forest Products environmental and sustainability policies the company was given an overall score of “D-“ for its lack of transparency with regard to environmental practices. The company has also been targeted by Rainforest Action Network for its use of logging of old-growth forests, describing the company as one of the “dirty dozen” companies engaged in exceptionally destructive logging practices for their sale of wood from endangered forests. In addition to Universal Forest Product’s old-growth logging, the company has also been targeted for treating lumber with pesticides containing arsenic. Seechia is further known for his sexism, calling women “bitches” and “big-breasted devils” as well as allegedly responding that “I’m looking for a big-titted woman” when asked what he hoped to accomplish as Ambassador to Italy. There are also reports that Secchia once mooned a woman on the floor of a GOP convention (source).