Sheehan Leads Crawford Protest on Her Own Land

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A year after her first war protest in President Bush's adopted hometown attracted thousands and reinvigorated the nation's peace movement, Cindy Sheehan resumed her vigil Sunday — this time on land she recently bought.

"Last summer we made a commitment to be here every time George Bush was supposed to be on vacation because he never met with me last summer. The troops are still in Iraq," said Sheehan, who recently returned from Jordan with 14 other war protesters who joined Iraqi lawmakers in demanding a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. "We're going to be doing it until our goals are accomplished."

White House spokesman Tony Snow has said that neither Bush nor his staff plan to meet with Sheehan.

"I would advise her to bring water, Gatorade or both," Snow said Friday during a press briefing. "Honestly, when you're talking about the kind of issues that we're talking about, Cindy Sheehan hasn't risen to the level of staff meetings at this point."

About 50 protesters attended an interfaith service Sunday on the 5 acres the group recently bought with insurance money Sheehan received after her oldest son Casey died in Iraq in 2004. The vacant land with a field and tree groves is near downtown, about 7 miles from the ranch.

As Sheehan spoke, saying "our hearts are connected," regardless of people's races, countries or religions, a man disrupted the service with loud questions and shouts of, "This is unpatriotic!" before he was asked to leave.

William McGlothlin of Marked Tree, Ark., said he was visiting his son in College Station and decided to try to see Bush's ranch, then stopped by the protesters' site because he had heard about them and was angered by them.

"I believe Bush is doing what he should be doing," McGlothlin said. "Freedom of speech is good until it gets out of whack."

Sheehan said she expected more protesters to arrive throughout the month. The protest initially was to start Aug. 16, after the Veterans for Peace convention in Seattle. But Sheehan moved up the vigil last week after learning that Bush would be in Crawford for only 10 days at the beginning of August, his shortest summer ranch vacation yet.

A year ago, Sheehan and a few dozen anti-war demonstrators arrived by bus in Crawford from the Veterans for Peace convention in Dallas and started marching toward Bush's ranch, demanding to talk to the president about the war.

Later that day, two of Bush's top aides met with Sheehan. But she said she was not leaving until Bush himself talked to her, so she set up camp in ditches off the winding, two-lane road among fields and cow pastures a couple of miles from the ranch.

As the 26-day vigil swelled to several thousand people on weekends — and as locals began to complain of the noise, traffic congestion and odor from portable toilets — a sympathetic landowner allowed the group to use his 1-acre lot about a mile from the ranch. That site was dubbed "Camp Casey II."

Last fall, county commissioners enacted roadside camping and parking bans. But some demonstrators returned to Sheehan's original makeshift campsite during November and April war protests for a civil disobedience action and were arrested. Sheehan was not among them.

In late June, Sheehan and four others sued the county over the ordinances, saying they want to return to what became an "international symbol of protest against the Iraq war."

On Sunday afternoon, Sheehan and several dozen protesters were to return to her original campsite and march toward the ranch to the Secret Service roadblocks. Then the group planned to spend the rest of the afternoon at the original campsite, dubbed "Camp Casey I," where they will not be arrested if they do not get in tents or spend the night, according to the ordinances.