Protesters say Kerry flip-flops on issues

Carrying sandals or wearing a waffle suit, dissenters try to make their point.
Friday, August 6, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:04 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

A man wearing a giant waffle suit stood across the street as John Kerry spoke in Jefferson City on Thursday, symbolizing the Republican message that the Democratic presidential candidate has been known to change his mind on a variety of issues. The man standing next to him held a sign that read “Waffles are for breakfast — not presidents.”

The men, who identified themselves only as Missouri Republicans, were part of a small protest demonstration as Kerry addressed a crowd of thousands by the steps of the Capitol building. An hour before Kerry was scheduled to speak, about seven protesters had gathered across the street from the campaign event. By the time Kerry took the stage — two hours behind schedule — the number of protesters outside had increased to about 15.

“We want everyone to know that there is another side to the issues,” said protester Brent Whelan of Jefferson City. “And we think that President Bush is on the right side.”

Whelan, a public school teacher, held up a sign that read “Teachers 4 Bush” and was joined by his 12-year-old son, Zach, and Larinee Dennis, also a Jefferson City public school teacher.

Zach said he joined his dad in the protest to “show everybody who I root for.”

Zach was not the only Jefferson City youth who wanted to have his voice heard. Jessica Moore and Jamie Kepner, both 16, also held up signs in favor of Bush.

“I just think four years is not enough time for a president to do his job,” Moore said.

Protest was not limited to the streets outside the event. During the speech, two protesters waved orange and yellow sandals in the audience, yelling “flip-flop.”

Kerry supporters in the crowd quickly surrounded the two protesters. They held up signs including one that read “MO Loves Teresa” all around the protesters to block them from being seen.

An event volunteer had said that they expected some protest to happen in the crowd during the speech because tickets were so easily accessible. All tickets to the event were free, and general admission tickets were available online. To lessen the visibility of the protesters, the volunteer said, general admission ticket holders were kept farther away from the stage.

Earlier on Thursday, Sen. Jim Talent held a conference call in anticipation of Kerry’s visit. He criticized Kerry for his “attempts to be on both sides of the issue” and said Kerry’s flip-flopping may cost him votes at both ends of the political spectrum.

“I think this campaign is going to show that you can’t go both ways (on issues),” Talent said.

— Missourian reporter Noreen Siddiqui contributed to this report

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