Near the President's Ranch, Protests Expand in the Heat
Sunday, August 28, 2005
CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 27 -- They arrived in thousands from all corners of the country, asserting their right to protest in the name of war and peace near President Bush's ranch.
It was almost 100 in the shade, but the temperature in this dusty prairie town felt far higher, with protesters of wildly differing views and temperaments packing into narrow roads and small open spaces. Some came to party, some came to weep, a small number came spoiling for a fight -- police said there were two reports of assaults.
This weekend is the culmination of the standoff between Bush and war protester Cindy Sheehan, who arrived 21 days ago. She came asking Bush to meet with her, even though he had done so before, to discuss the war. Her protest snowballed, with the arrival of Sheehan sympathizers and then pro-war demonstrators. Both sides planned major rallies over the weekend because it is the last one before Bush ends his vacation and Sheehan leaves.
Chief Donnie Tidmore, head of the seven-member Crawford police force estimated that 8,500 protesters had descended on his town.
In three weeks, Sheehan, who lost her 24-year-old son, Army Spec. Casey Sheehan, in Iraq last year, has become the face of an invigorated antiwar movement. She has drawn praise from scores of supporters as well as condemnation from conservatives who believe she is motivated by a political agenda that dishonors fallen soldiers.
"This is America standing up and saying this is enough. Mr. Bush, you always said that if you are not for us, you are against us. Well, Mr. Bush, we are against you," she said to a standing ovation at a rally of her supporters.
"Why are we allowing him to continue to kill our kids, because he's killed so many already?" she asked. She then invited the crowd to turn toward Bush's ranch and chant "Not one more" -- not one more death -- 10 times so that the president might hear.
Her protest, timed to coincide with Bush's vacation and the usual news vacuum in August, mirrors the country's increasing fractiousness over the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. Sheehan has said that if she fails to get a second audience with Bush before her self-imposed deadline of Wednesday, she will lead a bus tour to Washington, where she says she will set up a permanent vigil.
In his weekly radio address, Bush asked for patience for the troops to complete their work.
"Our efforts in Iraq and the broader Middle East will require more time, more sacrifice and continued resolve," he said. "Yet people across the Middle East are choosing a future of freedom and prosperity and hope. And as they take these brave steps, Americans will continue to stand with them because we know that free and democratic nations are peaceful nations."
At the pro-war rally in the center of Crawford, victims of terrorist attacks spoke about the importance of continuing the military campaigns abroad.
Deena Burnett, whose husband, Thomas, was killed trying to retake Flight 93 from terrorist hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001, flew in from Little Rock to speak.