CRAWFORD, Texas – Several thousand people descended on President Bush's adopted hometown Saturday, attending a rally supporting him or arriving for the last leg of an anti-war demonstration near his ranch.
The pro-Bush rally by the school football stadium was the culmination of the "You don't speak for me, Cindy!" tour that started last week in California — referring to the protest that peace activist Cindy Sheehan started Aug. 6 near Bush's ranch.
Several times the crowd of about 1,500 chanted, "Cindy, go home!"
"You are giving hope and encouragement to the enemies of America," said former California Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian, a Republican who co-founded Move America Forward, the group that coordinated the rally.
Meanwhile, busloads of war protesters gathered several miles away at "Camp Casey," named for Sheehan's 24-year-old son who died in Iraq last year, for a Saturday bell-ringing ceremony to honor soldiers serving in Iraq. Organizers estimated the crowd at more than 2,000, but it appeared smaller.
"I know that the Camp Casey movement is going to end the war in Iraq," Sheehan said, adding that no other families should have to suffer the loss of a relative. She led the crowd in chanting "Not one more!"
Traffic was at a crawl for hours in the one-stoplight town of 700 people, and law enforcement agencies from nearby cities were called in to help.
At the pro-Bush rally, there were some heated moments when two members of Protest Warrior, a group that frequently holds counter protests to anti-war rallies, walked in with a sign that read "Say No to War — Unless a Democrat is President."
Many Bush supporters only saw the top of the sign and believed the men were war protesters, so they began shouting and chasing the pair out. One man tore up their signs. When Will Marean of Minneapolis kept repeating that he was on the Bush side and tried to explain Protest Warrior's mission, one Bush supporter shook his hand and apologized.
Later Saturday, a few Bush supporters went to the edge of the anti-war camp trying to remove some of the hundreds of white crosses bearing fallen soldiers' names. They had a list from families who didn't want their sons' or daughters' names associated with Sheehan's group. Sheriff's deputies said they could remove the name tags but not the crosses, so the group removed a few tags and left.
Several families of fallen U.S. soldiers attended the rally, including John Wroblewski and his wife from Jefferson Township, N.J. The couple, whose oldest son, Marine 2nd Lt. John Thomas Wroblewski, died in Iraq last year, said they disagree with Sheehan's beliefs that Bush misled Americans about the reasons for the war.
"We're not for war. I don't think anybody is ... but we've got to complete the mission," John Wroblewski said.
Deena Burnett, whose husband Tom was on the fourth plane hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001, said he and the other passengers fought the terrorists before their plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
"Now it's up to us to continue what he started," Burnett said Saturday to cheers from those at the pro-Bush rally.
It was the largest counter protest since Sheehan started camping out off the road leading to Bush's ranch after his Texas vacation began. A handful of Bush supporters have set up a small camp in a ditch across the street from Sheehan's site, and another pro-Bush camp opened beside a downtown souvenir store last weekend.
Sheehan vowed to remain in Crawford unless Bush talked to her about the war with Iraq that claimed the life of her son and more than 1,870 other U.S. soldiers. "Camp Casey" has swelled from dozens on weekdays to about 1,000 the past two weekends.
After the war protest ends, the group will spread its message on a bus tour, with the first stop probably in the southeast Texas district of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Republican from Sugar Land.
Bush has said he appreciates Sheehan's right to protest and understands her anguish but will not change his schedule to meet with her. His vacation is to end Sept. 2.
Sheehan and other grieving families met with Bush about two months after her son died last year, before she became a vocal opponent of the war.
Crawford hasn't seen this big a crowd since the film "Fahrenheit 9/11" was shown last summer on a screen at the football field, drawing about 3,000 people. The screening was organized by the Crawford Peace House, which also is helping Sheehan. Earlier that night, more than 300 Bush supporters held a rally to counter the showing of the film.