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Protester or supporter? Mix of folks share opinions during Obama's visit

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Annie Stueber, of Tryon, wants President Obama to know that she is related to him (3/22/12).
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CUSHING, Okla. – Overcast and a little on the chilly
side, both supporters and protesters of President Barack Obama visit to
Oklahoma’s oil patch lined the eastern side of Little Avenue here in Cushing’s
Memorial Park.

And when the gathering, watched by dozens of troopers
with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, caught eye of the helicopter ferrying the
president from Tinker Air Force Base to the airport in Cushing, the excitement
was suddenly palpable as many took pictures with their cameras.

“That’s a military chopper. That’s the president,”
said one giddy woman nearby.

Some just smiled at the thought of the visit and
some just held signs, like one which read: “Informed Okies Vote Obama.”

President Obama would land at the Cushing airport
and jump into a black SUV with Washington, D.C. plates, and drive past this
collection of folks who wanted to share their views with the president be it
with a sign, a flag, or a finger gesture.

Dirt Report
came to Cushing, despite an official
invitation to see President Obama’s departure from Tinker a little after noon. There
simply wasn’t time to cover the folks gathering in Cushing and get to Tinker in
the time allotted.

He was here – specifically in neighboring Ripley at
a TransCanada pipe yard -- to offer his support for the expedited construction
of the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would start in
Cushing and make its way to the Texas Gulf Coast.

No, the real story was here in Cushing where folks
like Fort Gibson resident Jean McMahon, who stood out in her polar bear costume
while holding signs which read: “Obama: Have You Heard of Global Warming?” and
another which simply stated “Stop the Pipeline.” She drove to Cushing in a
bumper-sticker-covered Toyota Corolla, one of the stickers reading: “Polar
bears for Global Cooling.”

“I’m really worried about global warming,” McMahon
said with a degree of seriousness. “If we don’t do something, catastrophic
things will happen. The rising oceans, increased deserts, especially in places
like Oklahoma and dust bowls like we used to have.”

McMahon’s tone turned apocalyptic as she described a
world turned upside down by environmental devastation – a glacier-free planet,
flooded cities, mass starvation. Asked if she was pleased with President Obama’s
efforts in the fight against global warming, McMahon scoffed; “Absolutely not!”
She added that the U.S. is “mostly run by corporations.”

Alan Kelly, a grim-faced Shawnee resident, walked
around the gathering dressed in Native American garb and holding a staff with
an eagle head on it. His views echoed those of Jean McMahon to a certain

Kelly told Red
Dirt Report
that he was in Cushing today to make his position known that the
Keystone XL pipeline would cause all sorts of ecological problems and taint
water sources along its path.

“Water is sacred to us,” Kelly said, reminding this
reporter of Iron Eyes Cody, the crying Indian from 1970’s PSA fame.

There were skeptics in the crowd here on Little
Avenue as well. Gustavo Duarte, holding a sign which read: “Drones are
un-human, Not un-manned,” said that in modern warfare, as we have seen in
Afghanistan, allows the military to hide behind “anonymity” when an unmanned
drone is used to blow away an alleged terrorist. Plus, he said, there is often
a lot of collateral damage when drones engage in “humanitarian bombing.”

Duarte, in Cushing with the “Stillwater Peace Vigil,”
said drones “give too much power to the state.”

Bruce Ackerson, a physicist from Stillwater, who was
with the peace group, was a friendly guy who was suspicious of the police
state. Ironically, as he held a sign which read “Free Speech Prison,” a state
trooper unspooled yellow “crime tape” to keep the protesters and others from
getting too close to the street as Obama’s motorcade sped past.

Disturbed by expanding “American imperialism,”
Ackerson said America was on a rapid path “down the road of all empires.”

“We think we know how to run the world,” Ackerson
said, a hint of disgust in his voice.

Ackerson explained the recent history of American
involvement with Afghanistan when the Soviet Union occupied that land. And now
we are fighting the same people we once supported as they fought off Communism.

Not much of an Obama fan, Ackerson said he has “been
most impressed with Ron Paul,” specifically Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy.

Asked about his thoughts on the mixture of people
from the left, right and in-between, Ackerson smiled and said, “Any time we get
people talking, there’s some hope.”

And on the right side there were Tea Party-type
supporters of the Keystone XL who were also opposed to Obama and his liberal agenda.

Tulsa residents Gary and Helen Snider wore matching
T-shirts which read: “OMG! Obama Must Go!”

“He’s coming today to promote oil and yet he’s been
against it all along,” Gary Snider said.

Added Helen Snider, a native of Duluth, Minnesota: “He’s
coming here to take credit for something he has no part of. He’s against oil.
He’s just here campaigning.”

Gary Snider, who held a Tea Party Gadsden “Don’t
Tread on Me” flag, explained that America “is a Christian nation” and that in
the last election, millions of Christians failed to vote, leading to an Obama

Gary Snider also noted that with this being a
Christian nation, English is also the official language and that people from
elsewhere need to respect that fact.

With them were Joe and Cindi Hampton of Mounds,
Oklahoma. Joe Hampton wore a T-shirt which read: “Pinocchiobama” featuring
Pinocchio and Obama sporting long noses, while Cindi Hampton’s sign – a slap at
Obama’s idea of fueling cars with algae – read: “President Algae: I would
rather hear your Farewell Speech.”

"What are you supposed to do with algae?" we asked.

"Put it in your gas tank, I guess," responded Cindi Hampton. The idea seemed absurd to everyone within earshot.

The Hamptons said they were trying to meet up with
Americans for Prosperity and others who were mounting a protest of Obama’s
visit. Apparently their lines were crossed and they were separated. Still, they
were glad to be visible and get their message across.

Cushing residents Mike and Ami Howell did not bring
a single sign. They did bring their children – Jestiny, Elijah and Christopher –
in an effort to give them an opportunity for them to see a president in their
home town, even if it was just the nation’s leader in an SUV with tinted

“We want (Obama) to know people in Oklahoma support
him and that he is doing a great job,” Mike Howell said.

Four women from neighboring Drumright – all “big
Obama supporters” – were among the first to arrive at the park, holding signs,
one that confusingly read “We are the 40 percent.”

“I think that history will show (Obama) as one of
the nation’s all-time best presidents,” said one of the women, adding, “And we
want to show our support when the motorcade goes by.”

One of the women, Toni Osterhout, said that she and
her friends felt it was important to show the president that despite Oklahoma’s
conservative nature and distinction as the only state where Obama did not take
a single Oklahoma county in 2008, that there were people who loved him.

“I think it’s so disrespectful of the governor not
to be here to greet him,” Osterhout said.

As she and the others spoke, OHP, Cushing Police and
other official-looking vehicles raced up and down otherwise sleepy Little
Avenue. Across the street, people sat in their yards or stood in their
driveways as a chilly breeze blew across the neighborhood, the sun struggling
to peek through the clouds.

Osterhout’s comment about Gov. Mary Fallin not being
here to greet the president was one echoed by others waiting to catch a glimpse
of the president.

Geraldine Taylor-Winslett and Carrie Winslett, who
drove up from Oklahoma City, said they  were
surprised that Gov. Fallin didn’t take time off from her vacation in Puerto
Rico to welcome the president to the Sooner State.

“I hate it that our governor was not able to receive
him,” Winslett said.

But, there overall reason for being in Cushing on a
chilly day was made clear.

“We are Obama supporters and wanted to see if we
could get a glimpse of him,” Taylor-Winslett said.

Probably one of the most interesting signs at the
Cushing gathering was one held by Tryon, Okla. resident Annie Stueber. It read:
“I’m your cousin, Annie.”

Smoking a cigarette, Stueber explained that her
grandfather and Obama’s grandfather on the Dunham side of the family were “distant

“Distant, but still related,” Stueber said with a
smile, noting that she had done lots of genealogical research.

Stueber, who was off by herself at the far end of the
police line said she hoped everyone behaved themselves and made Oklahoma look
good. She recalled how in 1992 when President George H.W. Bush sent his
vice-president, Dan Quayle, to campaign for re-election in smaller towns like

As a way of getting Quayle's attention, Stueber said she held up a sarcastic sign that said “Where next,
Perkins?” on one side and “Liar, liar, liar” on the other. She said thuggish “Young
Republicans” hit her and tried to get her to leave since she was not supporting
the GOP. She chuckled as she recalled the incident.

“I hope he comes by slow enough so we can all see
him and say hello,” Stueber said. “I would be thrilled if he would stop and get
a picture of me. Of course when I told my sister, she said, ‘Fat chance.’”

But Stueber was optimistic. “He’s a rascal,” she
said of the president. “He may do it.”

But the presidential motorcade with a dozen or so
vehicles, would simply zip past the sign-holding crowd. Stueber wouldn’t get a
chance to say hello to her cousin and the big supporters would sound
disappointed that they drove by so fast.

Cushing resident Jacob Mason, pushing a stroller,
wasn’t impressed. He and his family headed back to their car and Mason said
Obama’s visit to his town was “basically just a re-election stunt.”

Regardless, everyone in Cushing/Ripley seemed to
have an opinion on today’s historical event, where, for a short time, the eyes
of the nation were focused on their little corner of America.

2012 West Marie Media

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Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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