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A mom’s protest spreads

Mother’s quest to talk to Bush about war draws thousands in candlelight vigils across the nation

Newsday (New York)
August 18, 2005

Clutching a candle in one hand and a sign that read "Moms for Peace" in the other, Elise May stood by the side of a busy Great Neck intersection last night to protest the war in Iraq and support Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed there.

"As a mother, as a parent, I'm here because when I see her, I see an ordinary mom asking why and this is what I've been asking since day one," said May, 47, referring to Cindy Sheehan's quest in Crawford, Texas, to speak to President George W. Bush about the war.

Sheehan and organizers accepted an offer from Bush neighbor and Army veteran Fred Mattlage, who provided his property for the vigil after some residents grew angry over snarled traffic on the Crawford road.

Hundreds across Long Island and hundreds of thousands nationwide attended candlelight vigils in support of Sheehan last night. The 10 vigils on Long Island, some with only a handful of supporters and some with 150 or more, were scheduled to last about 90 minutes.

In Great Neck, a Ronkonkoma woman who gave only her first name, Lynn, 52, was driving by the vigil, turned around and came back to join the supporters. She said she is against the war. Her son is in the National Guard, an MP in Baghdad training Iraqi police. "All I do is cry," she said. "He's not supposed to come back until March. You feel like you are sitting on a time bomb."

The vigils were coordinated by the Web site, which got help organizing nationwide vigils from Democracy for America and True Majority.

In Water Mill, most of the people, standing in a large semi-circle, held lit candles as they listened to speakers. One of them, former Marine Cpt. Joseph Giannini, served in a rifle company in Vietnam.

"Someday we'll have another wall, and another 60,000 American dead," he said. "If Bush had gone to Vietnam like I did, he'd have the sense not to go in to a foreign land and think it's a walk in the park."

But the growing attention surrounding Sheehan's quest to speak personally with Bush has pushed some people away.

"In the very beginning, I was very sympathetic because we were all experiencing the same thing," said Marianna Winchester, whose son Ronald, 25, a Marine 1st lieutenant, was killed in western Iraq in September. "But now I'm at the point that I'm not even watching it anymore. Like anything else, it's gotten out of hand," she said about the media spectacle.

"The crusade in my heart goes on every day for everyone who's been lost," said Winchester of Rockville Centre.

She said she would not "stand out on the street with a sign and block traffic. But that's what makes the world go round. Everybody expresses it differently."

Staff writers Mitchell Freedman and Denise M. Bonilla contributed to this story.


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