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Signal of distress

click to enlarge DAN WILCOCK

Angered by President George W. Bush's re-election, a group of about 15 Cheyenne Mountain High School students and their friends staked out the corner of Acacia Park by the William J. Palmer horseback statue last Friday. The young men and women, many wearing bandit-like handkerchiefs, waved an upside-down flag and signs with messages such as "Four more years of dictatorship -- no way," and "Impeach the imposter."

"We don't like what's going on," said senior and first-time voter Jonathan Van Orne, 18, who skipped classes all day to protest Bush. Standing on the corner and registering outrage peacefully, he said, was "all we can do." For a rabble-rouser, Van Orne boasts a surprising list of squeaky-clean accomplishments: Eagle Scout and high test scores on both the ACT and SAT. Classmates at his high school, near The Broadmoor hotel, supported Bush overwhelmingly, he said.

Other protesters, including 16-year-old homeless anarchist Robert McGrath, voiced their fear of what will come with another four years of Bush in office, identifying the upside-down flag as a "signal of distress." A new Bush term, he said, would widen the gap between the rich and the poor.

And it could also make his chosen lifestyle more difficult. "Under the Patriot Act, I could be considered a terrorist," he said, mentioning his involvement with various "Black Bloc" anarchist groups know for resisting police.

As the protesters stood on the street corner, passing cars honked and some Palmer High School students on their lunch hour began to harass them. One ran up to them and called them "a bunch of faggots." Another snatched a sign away from Van Orne and ran into the park.

But despite these nuisances, Van Orne said he felt good about what he and his friends were doing. "Even though [our] numbers are small," he said, "it's definitely worth it."

-- story and photo by Dan Wilcock

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