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Mother leading vigil at Bush ranch vows national anti-war movement


Sheehan decries damage to crosses near camp site
The Baltimore Sun
From Wire Reports
Originally published August 17, 2005

CRAWFORD, Texas - Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who has set up a vigil near President Bush's ranch, said yesterday that she was "very disturbed" that a local resident had mowed down hundreds of small crosses bearing the names of other dead American soldiers.

Further, Sheehan promised that her 10-day-old protest was "only the beginning" of what she called a growing national movement to bring all American men and women home from the war.

Camp Casey, Sheehan's increasingly crowded roadside encampment named after her son, will soon move to a large property even closer to the president's ranch, she said.

"A kind gentleman from down the road offered us the use of his property," Sheehan told reporters last night. She identified the man as Fred Mattlage, whom she described as a distant cousin of Larry Mattlage, a local resident who fired a shotgun across the road from the encampment Sunday afternoon.

Sheehan said the property, near a Secret Service checkpoint about a mile from Bush's ranch, would have plenty of space for the parked cars that have jammed the roadside, irritating local residents. Fred Mattlage could not be reached yesterday to confirm Sheehan's account.

Demonstrators said they would start moving their tents, anti-war banners and portable toilets to the new site today.

Neighbors complain

In the meantime, a group of Bush's neighbors appeared before the McLennan County Commission yesterday morning asking that a no-parking zone near the president's ranch be expanded, effectively forcing Camp Casey to move to the town of Crawford, seven miles away.

Neighbors have complained of traffic jams and blocked roads, and some said they worried about the safety of their children, who started school yesterday.

On Monday night, police arrested a local resident who had used a truck to mow down about half of the 500 small wooden crosses hammered into the roadside dirt. Sheehan's supporters put the crosses back in place yesterday morning.

"What happened last night is very disturbing to all of us, and it should be really disturbing to America," Sheehan said in a news conference at Camp Casey. "Because no matter what you think about the war, we should all honor the sacrifice of the ones who have fallen. And to me it's so ironic that I'm accused of dishonoring my son's memory by doing what I'm doing, by the other side, and then somebody comes and does this."

Sheehan, who has vowed not to leave until Bush comes off his ranch and speaks to her, said that if local residents wanted her to leave, "they should talk to their neighbor, George Bush, and tell him to talk to us."

Bush did meet with Sheehan in June 2004, but she has said that the president was disrespectful to her by referring to her as "Mom."

Bush has since said he is sympathetic to Sheehan, 48, of Vacaville, Calif., whose 24-year-old son, an Army specialist, was killed in Baghdad on April 4, 2004. Yesterday, a White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said that while the president disagreed with Sheehan's views, "he says he respects her right to peacefully protest."

More vigils planned

Sheehan's supporters said they had planned nearly 1,000 anti-war vigils across the country tonight The effort is being organized by liberal advocacy groups MoveOn.org Political Action, TrueMajority and Democracy for America.

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