By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 26, 2005
CRAWFORD, Tex., Nov. 25 -- Cindy Sheehan has returned to the dusty town of Crawford, where she was transformed from a grieving mother into a symbol of the movement against the Iraq war.
She arrived Thursday night to the cheers of supporters and on Friday presided over the unveiling of a permanent sandstone monument in memory of her son, Casey, a soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004.
The monument is the central feature of a small garden of cactus and yucca plants that antiwar demonstrators have planted in front of the Crawford Peace House, the headquarters of their effort in the town near President Bush's vacation ranch.
Standing arm in arm with her sister, Dede Miller, and Juan Torres and Bill Mitchell, two fathers who lost sons in Afghanistan and Iraq, Sheehan said her protest, begun during Bush's stay here in August, had not ended.
"We're not going away," she told supporters gathered under an overcast sky. "We don't hate anybody. We just want people to be held accountable, and just because someone is president of the United States, it doesn't guarantee them immunity from accountability. And we're still looking for that."
Bush arrived at his ranch Tuesday, spending the week with his family and on Friday celebrating his twin daughters' 24th birthday.
Sheehan's supporters, meanwhile, have been arriving all week as well, in hopes of regenerating the attention they received when Sheehan camped outside the president's ranch for 26 days in August.
On Thanksgiving Day, they gathered under a large tent erected on private property adjoining Bush's spread to eat what they described as a "simple Iraqi meal." In lieu of turkey, it included tea, lentils, tilapia and curried vegetables. A group was arrested Wednesday after erecting tents on public land, now prohibited by a new county ordinance.
Vietnam War opponent Daniel Ellsberg, one of those arrested, sat in the first row of lawn chairs set up in front of the new monument Friday. After the ceremony, he said his arrest was a way to challenge the ordinance's constitutionality.
"I came here to protest the war, but we got two for one here," said Ellsberg, who said he has been arrested more than 70 times while protesting since he gained fame by leaking the "Pentagon Papers" about the Vietnam War in 1971. "We're also protesting this administration's intention to narrow down freedom of speech and assembly."
As in August, Sheehan's visit here once again brought out counterdemonstrators. One group stood in the parking lot of the local coffee shop behind a sign reading "Score -- Cindy 3, USA 403." The sign was a reference to a recent House of Representatives vote in which only three lawmakers supported a resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
"I think they're wasting their time," said John Calahan, a Vietnam War veteran from nearby Clifton. "There are only three who voted with them to run."
Bush plans to continue to try to bolster support for the war, including in a speech Wednesday at Annapolis that will focus on efforts to improve Iraqi security forces.