Sheehan Plans to Extend Protest
CRAWFORD, Texas – A fallen soldier's mother said Thursday that the anti-war vigil she started nearly three weeks ago near President Bush's ranch won't end when she and other protesters pack up their camp next week.
Cindy Sheehan (search) said the day after she leaves Aug. 31, she will embark on a bus tour ending up in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24. Then the group will start a 24-hour vigil in the nation's capital.
"I am not alone," she said at a news conference Thursday. "There's the people standing behind me here, but there's thousands of military families ... who want the same answers to the same questions."
Sheehan began her vigil Aug. 6 on the road leading to Bush's ranch, vowing to stay through his monthlong vacation unless he met with her. She left last week to visit her 74-year-old mother in Los Angeles after the woman suffered a stroke. Sheehan said her mother has started physical therapy for paralysis on her right side.
Sheehan returned on Wednesday to "Camp Casey," named after her 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan (search), who was killed last year in Iraq.
On Thursday, Sheehan placed her son's combat boots by a cross bearing his name at the protest site. The boots had been part of the "Eyes Wide Open" exhibit (search), created by the American Friends Service Committee, a branch of the pacifist Quaker church. The traveling exhibit of rows of black military boots is a reminder of the U.S. troops lost in Iraq.
Sheehan said she realizes that Bush has no intentions of meeting with the protesters, but that her vigil has accomplished other things.
"I absolutely think it's worthwhile because we've galvanized the peace movement," she said. "We've started people talking about the war again."
Sheehan's protest in Crawford has encouraged anti-war activists to join her and prompted peace vigils nationwide. She also continues to draw harsh criticism.
More Bush supporters arrived and pitched tents at the newly dubbed "Camp Reality," located in a ditch across the street from the war protesters' site along the main road leading to the president's ranch.
"People have said, 'Enough is enough — enough Bush bashing,'" said Gregg Garvey of Keystone Heights, Fla., whose 23-year-old son Justin died in Iraq in 2003. "This [protest] does not represent all of America."
Conservative activists and military families also were en route to Crawford from California on a tour called "You don't speak for me, Cindy!" The caravan coordinated by Move America Forward plans to hold a pro-Bush rally in town Saturday.
Bush has said he recognizes Sheehan's right to protest and understands her anguish, although she does not represent the views of many families he has met with.
Sheehan and other grieving families met with Bush about two months after her son died last year, before reports of faulty prewar intelligence surfaced and caused her to become a vocal opponent of the war.