CRAWFORD, Texas – After a 26-day vigil that ignited the anti-war movement, Cindy Sheehan took her protest on the road Wednesday, while a handful of veterans pledged to continue camping off the road leading to President Bush’s ranch until the war in Iraq ends.
Rather than heading home to California, the mother of a 24-year-old soldier who died in Iraq boarded one of three buses heading out on tour to spread her message.
“This is where I’m going to spend every August from now on,” Sheehan said as she smiled and waved through a bus window, after hugging dozens of fellow protesters.
The group plans to stop in 25 states during the next three weeks, then take Sheehan’s “Bring Them Home Now Tour” to the nation’s capital for a Sept. 24 anti-war march.
Sheehan had vowed to stay in Crawford until Bush’s monthlong vacation ended or until she could question him about the war that claimed the life of her son Casey and nearly 1,900 other U.S. soldiers. She missed a week of the protest because of her mother’s stroke.
“We’re going to keep on questioning him, and we’re going to keep on until our troops are brought home because there’s no noble cause,” she said Wednesday. “And that’s why George Bush couldn’t come out and talk to me because he doesn’t have a noble cause” for the war.
While two top Bush administration officials talked to Sheehan the first day, the president never did during her Crawford stay – although he said that he sympathizes with her. His vacation ended Wednesday, two days early, so he could monitor federal efforts to help hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast.
While dozens of protesters packed tents and anti-war banners Wednesday, a few tents remained so at least two Veterans for Peace members can keep camping there 24 hours a day until the war ends, said Carl Rising-Moore of Indianapolis.
“What happened here has created a shift of conscience on a global basis. It’s famous. It needs to be remembered,” Rising-Moore said.
Sheehan’s first stop on the bus tour was Austin for a rally later Wednesday. On Friday, protesters plan to go to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s office in the Houston area.
Sheehan said some 10,000 people visited “Camp Casey” since she started camping Aug. 6 in a ditch off the main road leading to Bush’s ranch. Most stayed a few hours or days at the original roadside camp or at the second, larger site about a mile away on a private lot offered by a sympathetic landowner.
Also Wednesday, at a smaller pro-Bush camp in a ditch across the street from Sheehan’s site, about a dozen people began taking down their tents, canopies and signs and putting away cases of water and food.
The counter camp sprung up slowly about a week after Sheehan arrived, and initially a few people stood with pro-Bush signs several hours a day. Later, several hundred people were there on weekends and a few dozen on weekdays.
Presidential adviser Karl Rove stopped by the site Tuesday night, and he hugged and thanked the Bush supporters, said Valerie Duty, who helped expand the pro-Bush camp two weeks ago.
“I love the troops and I love President Bush, and I support his decision on the war all the way – 100 percent,” said Mary Hitt of nearby Valley Mills, who spent much of the past 10 days at the site that Bush supporters dubbed “Camp Reality.”
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