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Mendocino Veterans for Peace bus takes Cindy Sheehan to Crawford


The Willits News
By Bill Hatch/TWN Writer

The Mendocino County Veterans for Peace bus that carried Cindy Sheehan to Crawford, Texas, rolled into Willits last Saturday night and parked outside a poetry reading at Mama Javas on Mendocino Avenue.

Two weeks ago in Dallas, when the call went out at the Veterans for Peace national convention, the Willits-based bus was available to drive keynote speaker Sheehan to Crawford and escort her as close to the Bush ranch compound as they could get.

The 10-month-old Mendocino VFP chapter was founded by Patrick Tate of Willits, its president and a Vietnam veteran. The chapters mission is to teach the general public the true costs of war, spokesman Gordon Soderberg said Saturday night. Brooktrails resident Fred Danforth painted the inverted American flag on the bus. Flying the flag upside down, according to the U.S. Navys Blue Jacket Manual, is the way a ship signals it is in distress and cut off from lines of communication, Soderberg, a former Navy corpsman, said.

Sheehan, co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, lost her son, U.S. Army Spc. Casey A. Sheehan, on April 4, 2004, in Sadr City, Baghdad. In Dallas, she addressed about 250 VFP convention delegates who resolved to call for impeachment of the president for failing to produce an exit strategy for the undeclared Iraq war. About 100 delegates accompanied Sheehan to Crawford in the bus and by car, Soderberg said.

The Willits bus carried computer and video gear and made a 30-minute unedited video tape of Sheehans encounters with deputies and the national press corps as she and her supporters attempted to get from Crawford to the Bush ranch. Soderberg, who made the tape, said it had been sent to International News Network and duplicates are being distributed to independent media throughout the country. It is now available at dc.indymedia.org, he added.

The bus will be an independent media center and alternative network-TV station, he added.

The Mendocino VFP bus left Crawford the weekend of August 7, continuing its mission to build grassroots opposition to the war in Iraq. The bus left the Crawford Peace Center in better shape than when they found it, Soderberg said It had three dogs, a disconnected phone, and the power was next, when we arrived. Now money is pouring in.

Veterans plan to go to Santa Barbara to have the bus outfitted with a satellite dish that will enable live video transmission before heading back to Crawford for the last week of Sheehans vigil (and the presidents vacation). They may then take Sheehan to Washington, D.C., to continue her vigil, either staying with her or continuing on a tour through eastern states, organizing more VFP chapters.

The bus first appeared at a Bohemian Grove protest earlier this year. fFully wired for independent media transmission, the bus will attend the September 24 anti-Iraq war march on Washington. In November, it will join a demonstration at the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

Soderberg said the inspiration to buy the bus came from the Garberville Vietnam Veterans Center, which has been providing buses for groups like Pastors for Peace for several years.

Mendocino VFP Chapter 116 is a nonprofit foundation eligible to receive tax deductible contributions. More information on the chapter and its members is available on vfproadtrips.org.

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