George W. Bush draws protesters at B.C. appearance
Police reopen streets following noon traffic closures
About 200 people shut down traffic, chanted through megaphones and sang anti-war songs in a suburban Vancouver protest against the presence in Canada of former U.S. president George W. Bush.
Bush and former president Bill Clinton arrived at the Regional Economic Summit held in Surrey, B.C., shortly after noon Thursday. The annual summit, hosted by Mayor Dianne Watts, drew about 500 people who each paid $599 to attend the closed-door afternoon event.
The protest outside the Guildford Sheraton Hotel was organized by several groups, including Amnesty International.
Protester Chris Bennett blamed the world's economic problems on Bush and also pointed a finger at Canada's prime minister.
"Stephen Harper and George Bush are brothers from different mothers," he said. "Stephen Harper has taken Canadians' good name and trashed it in the same way George Bush has done to the United States."
An informal choir of about a dozen people sang political lyrics together.
"Praise George Bush for an unending war on drugs and terror and the poor. Too bad about a million dead, at least the rich are safe in bed," they sang.
Before the event, police set up a designated safe assembly zone for protesters to congregate on the south side of the hotel in anticipation of a peaceful protest.
When the protesters arrived the RCMP closed 104 Avenue between 152 Street and 154 Street rerouting traffic out of the area until the protest wrapped up around 1 p.m. PT.
There were no arrests.
The peaceful protest followed a rowdier protest outside a September appearance by former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney at an exclusive Vancouver book club which drew a crowd of about 250 protesters calling for his arrest, resulting in scuffles with police and one arrest.
Protesters call for Bush's arrest
Meanwhile, members of the Canadian Centre for International Justice said they intended to file a criminal complaint of torture against Bush in Surrey provincial court. CCIJ legal director Matt Eisenbrandt said Canada has a legal responsibility to prosecute people involved in torture.
In the court documents, Eisenbrandt claims that Al-Jazeera reporter Sami el Hajj was beaten, deprived of sleep, hung from walls and ceilings and suffered other forms of abuse while held in U.S. custody under the direction of Bush.
"He was in detention for over six years without any charges being laid against him or any proof he had any connection at all to terrorism," said Eisenbrandt. He holds Bush responsible for el Hajj's detention and says no one should be above the law.
"We're not attempting to single out Mr. Bush but apply the law as written as it would be applied to anyone else that doesn't have the political clout he does," he said.
Amnesty International has also issued a call for Canada to arrest Bush.
Inside the hotel, Watts told reporters the forum was meant to bring together diverse opinions on the global economy, and the group outside had a right to express their opinions too.
"I don't condone anything," she said of the war crimes allegations against the former president.
"I think that you have to realize there is a process and a venue — the international court — he has to be charged, tried and convicted. There's a process to do that and they have every right to proceed with that."
With files from the CBC's Ben Hadaway, Alan Waterman and The Canadian Press