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War Protest Continues Outside Bush Ranch

War Protest Continues Outside Bush Ranch After Leader Sheehan Leaves Due to Family Emergency
By ANGELA K. BROWN Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press

Aug. 19, 2005 - Although their leader had just departed because of a family emergency, anti-war demonstrators here didn't miss a beat, marching closer to President Bush's ranch to deliver handwritten letters.

The protest camp outside Bush's ranch resumed its activities Thursday shortly after Cindy Sheehan whose 24-year-old son Casey died in Iraq learned that her 74-year-old mother had a stroke in Los Angeles and made preparations to leave.

"I'll be back as soon as possible, if it's possible," Sheehan said before hugging tearful supporters and heading for the airport.

After arriving at the hospital in Los Angeles where her mother is being treated, Sheehan reiterated the reason for her protest in Crawford.

"I want to know what the noble cause is that my son died for like (Bush) always says," she told reporters. "I don't believe dying in a war of aggression on a country that's no threat to the United States of America is a noble cause."

On her daily blog, Sheehan wrote that she hoped to return to Crawford before the end of August. She had refused to leave until Bush met with her or his monthlong vacation ended. Bush is scheduled to return to Washington on Sept. 3.

Sheehan's mother is stabilized, Mimi Evans, one of the demonstrators, said during a news conference in Crawford on Friday. She offered no additional details on the mother's condition.

Sheehan, of Vacaville, Calif., started the makeshift campsite Aug. 6 in ditches along the road to Bush's ranch. Since then it has grown to more than 100 people, including many relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq, and hundreds more visitors who don't spend the night.

About 150 protesters marched two miles down the road to the checkpoint outside Bush's ranch Thursday with letters urging first lady Laura Bush to persuade her husband to meet with Sheehan.

Bush has said he sympathizes with Sheehan. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said earlier Thursday that the president said Sheehan had a right to protest but that he did not plan to change his schedule and meet with her.

Two top Bush administration officials talked to Sheehan the day she started her camp, and she and other families met with Bush shortly after her son's death and before she became a vocal opponent of the war.

FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley and Sen. Becky Lourey, a Minnesota lawmaker whose son died in Iraq, joined the protesters Thursday and planned to stay for a few days. Rowley said going to war was a mistake because the link between Iraq and al-Qaida was exaggerated.

Rowley, now retired, gained national attention after criticizing the FBI for ignoring her pleas before the Sept. 11 attacks to investigate terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui more aggressively.

Meanwhile, a conservative California-based group, Move America Forward, has produced a national television commercial to say Sheehan does not speak for military families. Group founder Deborah Johns, whose son is a Marine and is featured in the ad, said she believes Sheehan's crusade discredits the soldiers serving in Iraq.

"Cindy Sheehan certainly doesn't speak for me, our military families or our men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan," Johns says in the ad.

Associated Press writer Beth Fouhy in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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