They Are Stardust, And in Texas

The Rev. Alexandria Childs from California conducts a group prayer during the antiwar rally near President Bush's ranch in Texas.
The Rev. Alexandria Childs from California conducts a group prayer during the antiwar rally near President Bush's ranch in Texas. (Joe Raedle -- Getty Images)
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 22, 2005

CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 21 -- Camp Casey, which started with one mom and a grievance, mushroomed over the weekend into a massive settlement with a party tent for 2,000, a shuttle-bus service and an elaborate catering operation that deposited a 26-foot-long refrigerator truck, generators, and restaurant-quality ranges and warming ovens in a field next to President Bush's ranch.

The hippie crowd that originally was drawn to Cindy Sheehan's protest is still in town -- activists from Food Not Bombs are sleeping in an old school bus that has been painted sky blue and can be started only with jumper cables. But now they have been joined by liberals from throughout the West who are double-parking their hybrid-fueled cars to take part in a peace protest with a budget that is $120,000 and rising.

The grassy field is so close to the president's property that he and his entourage were photographed from there as he bicycled last week before the hordes arrived. Parking attendants wear reflectorized orange vests.

"It's kind of like if Woodstock was really organized," said Chris Voigt, 51, an architect from Fort Worth who was volunteering in the spacious kitchen tent, scraping a frittata pan. "The war's over. Somebody needs to tell Bush."

Voigt was surrounded by pallets of Ozarka bottled water, cases of Sterno gel chafing warmers, 52-ounce tubs of Folgers coffee and six-pound cans of Bush's Best pinto beans. Green-pepper trimmings were composting nearby, and recycling boxes were overflowing with discarded plastic.

The camp includes nine Port-a-Potties but no shower. About 150 protesters have been sleeping in tents or their cars. The rest come for the day, or stay at motels half an hour away in Waco.

"Sorry to Interrupt, Mr. President," says one of the many posters tacked up at the encampment. "But Our Soldiers Are Dying!"

"82 Troops Killed While Bush Goes Fishing," jeers a sign on the side of a U-Haul truck parked by the camp's organizers near Crawford's main crossroads.

None of the visitors to Camp Casey appeared to be local. Yard after yard along the roads leading to the camp is staked with signs such as "Freedom Isn't Free" and "We Support Our Commander in Chief," and scattered Bush supporters set up a counter-rally that they called "Camp Reality."

Canaan Baptist, a weathered wooden country church where the president has attended Easter sunrise services, sits across a narrow road from the peace camp. A parishioner from the neighborhood, Dave Cunningham, closed out this morning's service by praying for the president and his family, for the troops -- and for patience with the onslaught of demonstrators.

Sheehan is still in California tending to her mother, who suffered a stroke Thursday. But Sheehan's supporters said they expect her to return this week, and organizers are making plans to keep the Camp Casey sleep-outs and eat-ins going until Bush returns to Washington shortly before Labor Day.

Sheehan set up camp after Bush declined her impromptu demand for a second meeting to discuss the death of her 24-year-old son, Casey, in Iraq last year. Some in the White House viewed Sheehan as a partisan who could be dismissed: She had appeared on Capitol Hill at the behest of Democrats to discuss the "Downing Street memos" and has charged that Bush "killed" her son. Bush did not agree to a second meeting in part because he had met with her last year during a visit to a military base. He said in remarks last week that he sympathizes with her. He has been mostly out of sight since then, although he rode his mountain bike for 70 minutes in 101-degree heat Sunday.

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