Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts welcomes former United States presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to the 2011 Surrey Regional Economic Summit.

Small, well-behaved crowd protests George W. Bush visit

Former U.S. president among panel of speakers at Surrey Regional Economic Summit.

More than 200 people descended on Guildford this week to protest the arrival of former U.S. president George W. Bush.

Bush was scheduled to join former American president Bill Clinton at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit Thursday at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel, at  153 Street and 104 Avenue.

Many people have alleged Bush is guilty of war crimes for allowing torture of prisoners. A small group started to form out front of the hotel around 8 a.m. and by 11 a.m. had reached its full size.

The people attending were a mix of protesters from Vancouver and a sampling of people from Surrey. Organizations participating included Lawyers Against the War, Stopwar.ca, Occupy Surrey and some of the protesters from Occupy Vancouver.

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UBC students Chelsea Leslie, 20, and Rebecca Hassan, 19, said Bush should be arrested here and stand trial for alleged war crimes.

Kabal Sandhawhalia, 78, agrees.

He came with a Surrey group called the East Indian Defense Council.

Their spokesperson Harbajan Cheema said about 15 to 20 of the council’s membership came out to the event.

A 30-year-old woman named Kat lives up the street from the protest.

“I’m disappointed in the mayor for defending his coming here,” Kat said.

The crowd marched up and down 104 Avenue chanting, “Arrest Bush Now” and asking RCMP why they wouldn’t arrest the former president.

At one point, the crowd stopped traffic in the intersection of 104 Avenue and 152 Street, continuing the demonstration there. By about 2:30 p.m., most of the protesters had dispersed.

Surrey RCMP said they were pleased with the overall response from protesters at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit. No major incidents occurred and no arrests were made by police.

“Our security plan worked well,” said Surrey RCMP Cpl. Drew Grainger. “The safety of both protestors and participants was kept intact.”

Road closures in the area lasted throughout the day and traffic was rerouted, which caused minor delays.

“We would like to thank motorists, pedestrians, and businesses in the area for their cooperation and understanding of this disruption,” said Grainger.

The Surrey RCMP is hopeful that future events such as this in the City of Surrey will have similar results for public safety.

In addition to Bush and Clinton, this year’s summit featured Pam Woodall, senior economics writer and former Asia economics editor with The Economist; John Fund, columnist with the Wall Street Journal; Michael Levy, founder, president and managing director of Border Gold Corporation; Niels Veldhuis, vice-president of research, The Fraser Institute; and Marc and Craig Kielburger, the co-founders of Free the Children and Me to We.

kdiakiw@surreyleader.com

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