Protestors find empty office

Iraq War protestors who had gathered and demonstrated in Chico and then marched to the office of Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, to talk about the war were stood up last week when they discovered the congressman’s office was closed for the day.

Police said they’d learned of a terrorist threat; the demonstrators say Herger and his staff simply refused to engage them in debate on the war.

As many as 60 made the four-mile march from the campus of Chico State University to Herger’s office in Philadelphia Square, but when they arrived, the office was empty. Instead, a paddy wagon and 40 Chico cops, some in riot gear, some with video cameras, were waiting.

Herger was in session back in Washington and the police had told his office employees of the pending protest the day before, said Fran Peace, Herger’s district director.

“We were advised to close for the safety of our staff,” Peace said. “We didn’t know what kind of numbers [of protesters] we were dealing with.”

Chico Police Capt. John Rucker later said the police had learned of a possible terrorist threat posted on the local Craigslist Web site. Indeed, dated Oct. 21 was the following: “We’re gonna be blowing shit up here in Chico come the 2nd!!!! It’s an international day of protest through non-participation. DOn’t GO TO SCHOOL. DOn’t GO TO WORK. there will be rally’s and marches al over the country. In Chico we’re gonna be walking out of class, work, ect. and conglomerating at the Free Speach area at Chico State University. Rally starts at 10:00 and the march starts at 12:00 There will be live music, food, and street theater for all! WE WILL SEND A SIGN TO WASHINGTON THAT WE DO NOT SUPPORT THE ACTIONS OF OUR GOVERNMENT. FREE PALISTINE, IRAQ, AFGANISTAN, AND HAITI. NO WAR IN IRAN AND NO WORLD POLICE!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“We are not in a federal building so we have to be cognizant of our neighbors,” Peace said, explaining she told nearby businesses of the potential danger.

Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico, whose law office is in the same building as Herger’s office, said this week he’d heard nothing of the terrorist threat and the protestors themselves wondered why they weren’t warned.

“Wally Herger is accountable to us,” said march organizer Bob Trausch. “We want to get together with Herger in a town hall meaning and have him explain the exit strategy for leaving Iraq. We’re waiting for him to answer the question.”