Shoes Fly as George W. Bush Speaks in Montreal


protestorsAbout 300 protesters outside a downtown hotel blew plastic horns, tossed shoes and burned George W. Bush in effigy Thursday as the former U.S. president spoke to a luncheon of the Montreal Board of Trade.

Facing the crowd were dozens of Montreal police tactical squad members and while there was plenty of noise, there were only five arrests and no injuries.

Inside the regal Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel, a relaxed-appearing Bush spoke with very few regrets about some of the most controversial moves of his presidency.

“I am confident that I made decisions based on principle, that I made calls as best I could, and I did not sell my soul,” Bush told an audience of about 1,000 men and women at the $400-a-seat steak luncheon.

The speech, part of a cross-country tour organized in part to promote Bush’s upcoming autobiography, was followed by a question-and-answer period.

Bush began with a series of jokes about what it is like to be a former president, recounting a story of walking into a Dallas hardware store about a month after he left office. An employee of the store asked him if anyone had ever told him he looks a lot like George W. Bush.

I said, “Happens almost every day, actually” and as I’m walking away, I hear the guy saying “Sure must make you mad!”

Bush defended his decisions to invade Afghanistan and Iraq and to bail out Wall Street with taxpayers’ money.

Asked whether he would reconsider any of his decisions, Bush brought up his failure to complete immigration and social security reform and his handling of the Hurricane Katrina crisis in 2005.

“I spend a lot of time thinking about Katrina, and whether I could have sent in the federal troups right away, even though it was against the law,” he said.

While Bush’s speech was mostly eloquent and free of the language gaffes he admits he is famous for, he said he regretted appearing in front of a “Mission Impossible” sign during a televised address in 2003. The controversial banner referring to the U.S. mission in Iraq, actually said “Mission Accomplished.”

Various unions, activist and antiwar groups supported the protest.

Joan Hadrill of the Raging Grannies said she was on the street because Bush was “an alleged war criminal for his invasion of Iraq and torturing prisoners of war.”

Immigration lawyer William Sloan blamed Bush for “cynically causing a war that is responsible for so many deaths and so much destruction.”

“He set back international law into the 1700s, violating every convention possible and seeming to revel in it,” he continued.

Among the main slogan chanters was Jaggi Singh, the Montreal activist who was part of the committee that organized the protest and asked that old shoes be brought, to emulate the Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi who tossed one at Bush during a Baghdad news conference.

Various pieces of footwear were hurled high in the direction of the hotel and the line of riot police, who did not seek to arrest the throwers.

The five arrested are to be charged with mischief and disturbing the peace, Montreal police said.

The Washington Speakers Bureau, Bush’s agent on the speaking circuit, is reported to charge up to $150,000 for each of his appearances.

{Canwest News Service/Irwin Block and Michelle Lalonde, Montreal Gazette/Noam Newscenter}


  1. Throwing shoes – legitimate and a bit humourous.

    Burning in effigy? Hinting of violence and definitely not proper. An apology is called for here, although the protest itself is well within the bounds of free speech.