Pro-, Anti-War Demonstrators Clash in Calif.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Supporters of President Bush clashed with anti-war activists as they wound their way through California after rallying in the hometown of Cindy Sheehan (search), the mother of a soldier slain in Iraq who started a protest camp outside Bush's Texas ranch.
Conservative activists and military families embarked on the tour Monday, calling it "You don't speak for me, Cindy!" A verbal confrontation erupted when the caravan arrived in Sacramento and was met by anti-war protesters chanting for Bush to bring home the troops.
Sheehan supporter Dan Elliott, 71, confronted caravan members by waving a sign reading "Death is not support" and heckling one of the tour's organizers as she addressed the crowd.
"You are ruining the morale over there," responded Greg Parkinson, a Bush supporter.
Sheehan began her protest vigil Aug. 6 on the road leading to Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, an act that has encouraged anti-war activists to join her and prompted peace vigils nationwide. Sheehan's 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed last year in Iraq.
The pro-Bush caravan planned rallies in several California cities before heading to Crawford, where Sheehan opponents have formed their own camp.
"It's time to lay down the anger. We need to continue to uphold those people over there, to uphold those men and women with their boots on the ground," said Deborah Johns (search) of the Northern California Marine Moms, who helped organize the caravan and addressed supporters outside the Vacaville Reporter newspaper in Sheehan's hometown.
Some caravan members called the anti-war protesters communists and said they were "aiding and abetting the enemy." Those comments enraged Sheehan supporter Dee Ann Heath, who said she has two sons serving in Iraq and another preparing to leave.
"I don't support the war, but I support my sons," she said. "I simply want them to come home."
In Vacaville, Toni Colip, 50, said her son, David, went to high school with Casey Sheehan and is now in the Army, although not in Iraq. Colip said her son opposes Cindy Sheehan's activities and has asked her to support his military service even if he is injured or killed.
"He said, 'Don't dishonor me; don't walk on my grave,"' Colip said.
Sheehan vowed to remain in Texas until Bush agreed to meet with her or until his monthlong vacation ended Sept. 3, but she flew to Los Angeles last week after her 74-year-old mother had a stroke. She is expected to return to Texas in a few days.
On Monday, Bush was in Salt Lake City, where he spoke to a national veterans group to rally support for the war. Bush has said he sympathizes with Sheehan, but a White House spokeswoman said he did not plan to change his schedule and meet with her. She and other families met with Bush about two months after Casey died, before she became a vocal opponent of the war.