President Barack Obama walks with former president George H. W. Bush after a speech on October 16, 2009 in College Station, Texas. President Obama joined former president Bush and more than 2,000 service leaders to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Points of Light movement and issue a new call to Americans to serve in their communities.
Several hundred protesters, some carrying signs reading "Nobama" and "We Don't Want Your Change," gathered at Texas A&M University on Friday to protest President Barack Obama's visit to the traditionally conservative school.
The protesters assembled hours before Obama spoke during a forum on community service at the invitation of former President George H.W. Bush.
In a letter to the "Texas A&M Family" this week, Bush -- whose presidential library is on campus -- said Obama's visit was about community service, not politics.
Nevertheless, protesters made speeches criticizing Obama's efforts to reform health care and accused him of promoting a socialist agenda, unfairly taxing the middle class and promoting big government. Many of the protesters were from anti-tax Tea Party groups that bused in members from around the state to College Station, located about 100 miles northwest of Houston.
For most of the day, protesters were allowed to gather only at a park near the auditorium where Obama was to speak. The president would not be able to see them because a parking garage blocked the view.
But before the forum began, a group of about 100 protesters were able to gather behind metal railings across the street from the auditorium. Obama did not pass the protesters, but the crowd greeted audience members as they left the forum with chants of "Keep the Change," "No More Debt" and "No More Lies."
James Martinez, a 61-year-old retired truck driver, said even though Obama would not see the protesters, their presence would be known.
"The way the government and America is going, we're losing all our freedoms and headed toward socialism and communism," said Martinez, who attended the protest with others from Giddings, about 60 miles southwest of the campus.
Many protesters sat in lawn chairs and listened to people who had signed up to present "soap box speeches" from a stage in the hilly park.
Organizers urged people to be respectful of the president during the protest. Nevertheless, some held up signs that made Obama look like Adolf Hitler.
Many at the protest said they were upset not just with Obama but all politicians -- Democrat and Republican -- for not listening to them.
Joe Holst rode by bus with about 60 others from Lumberton, about 150 miles east of campus, to attend the event. Holst held up a sign that read, "We the People Not We the Government."
"Politicians think we are stupid and don't understand how we want our country run. We are here to tell them that next year (during midterm elections) they are gone," said Holst, a 68-year-old retired truck driver.
Some at the protest supported Obama.
Dan Kiniry, a 25-year-old A&M graduate, had a sign that said, "Volunteering Socialism." Kiniry said his sign was meant as a satirical criticism of the protesters.
"It's an event to empower volunteerism. But you have a lot of people protesting it. That kind of looks silly," said Kiniry, who favors universal health care.