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A protest without hoopla: Detroit group supports Calif. mom


BY KIM NORTH SHINE
DETROIT FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Antiwar protesters have staked out a downtown Detroit street corner as an outpost of Camp Casey, the Crawford, Texas, protest site that ballooned from a grieving mother's demand for answers about her soldier son's death in Iraq into a springboard for a growing antiwar movement.

The Detroit version of Camp Casey on Woodward and Adams, is far more subdued than Crawford and its media circus.

At Camp Casey Detroit, where 25-30 volunteers chatted in lawn chairs, sang peace songs and held a picnic Sunday to celebrate seven days of round-the-clock protest, there is only an occasional TV camera and no feuding to speak of.

Still, the group hopes it can add a ripple to the war opposition spreading across the country.

The protesters were inspired by a visit to Crawford a little more than a week ago to witness what Cindy Sheehan, 48, started Aug. 6 when she began protesting outside President George W. Bush's ranch.

The camps are named in honor of Sheehan's son Army Spec. Casey Sheehan, 24. He died in an April 2004 attack in Sadr City.

Camps similar to Detroit's are operating in Florida and Oregon and vigils are being held in dozens of cities, including several in Michigan, weekly.

"When we got back to Detroit from Crawford we said, 'We're not going home,' We have to do something," said David Sole, a Detroiter who helps head up the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice.

The people supporting Sole and his cause include mothers of soldiers, a brother of a dead soldier and students to retirees who hope to convince people that money and lives are being wasted in Iraq.

Unlike Crawford, where there is often confrontation between opponents, the Detroit camp is quietly spreading its motto: Money For Cities, Not For War.

"If we stop the war for one day we could help solve the deficit in Detroit ... help people with medical needs and mental health issues," said Isis Smith, a protester from Detroit and recent graduate of Barnard College.

Working in shifts, the volunteers have kept the street corner at Grand Circus Park occupied 24 hours a day. They spend their nights in sleeping bags and on folding lounge chairs. Detroit Police ordered them to take down their tents because they had no permits.

The centerpiece of the set-up is a statue of William Maybury, a former Detroit mayor and congressman who has no relation to the group's antiwar cause. In a semi-circle behind the statue are 50-60 knee-high white crosses erected by veterans who oppose the war. Each represents the loss of a Michigan military member in Iraq.

"It's going on too long," said Norman Christensen, whose 42-year-old brother Thomas Christensen of Highland was killed by a bomb in Iraq while he slept Christmas Day 2003.

Not everyone agrees with the protesters and a few passersby have said so, but nearby businesses and residents have brought food, water and ice. A church across the street provides bathrooms during the day and a nearby apartment dweller offers his bathroom at night.

The protesters say they'll stay until Sept. 24, when a national antiwar rally is scheduled in Washington, D.C.

"If my daughter had died when she was in Iraq, I would be doing exactly what Cindy Sheehan is doing," said Andrea Hackett, a Detroit protester who addressed crowds in Crawford. "This is the least we can do."

Contact KIM NORTH SHINE at 313-223-4557 or kshine@freepress.com.

http://www.freep.com/news/locway/camp29e_20050829.htm

For information about Camp Casey Detroit and the Sept. 24 Stop the War march in Washington, D.C., check out www.mecawi.org and www.answercoalition.org.

There is also a Web log tracking Camp Casey Detroit's activities: www.campcaseydetroit.blogspot.com.

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It's almost like a cool breeze to hear another Camp Casey has sprung up.

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