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In Defense Of Troops...War Opponents, Supporters Speak Out On Their Behalf
In Defense Of Troops
War Opponents, Supporters Speak Out On Their Behalf
September 19, 2005
By CHRISTINE DEMPSEY, Courant Staff Writer NEW HAVEN --
Military mom Cindy Sheehan, who injected unprecedented zeal into the nation's anti-war movement by holding a nearly monthlong vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch last month, slammed Bush at a rally on the green Sunday and urged hundreds there to do more to promote peace.
As people applauded, cheered and bobbed signs with anti-war slogans, Sheehan urged them to put pressure on the administration to bring home the troops stationed in Iraq. She told the crowd she wants them at an anti-war rally Saturday in Washington. .
"We're committed to keep going until our troops are brought home, and after that, to make sure this never happens again for the young people who are here, for our unborn grandchildren and born grandchildren," Sheehan said. Sheehan's son, Casey, an Army soldier, died in Iraq on April 4, 2004. In early August, Sheehan sat in a lawn chair outside Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, and vowed to stay there until he could tell her why her son died.
Bush never came out to talk to her and instead left. But by that time, busloads of supporters had arrived at the makeshift vigil site to support Sheehan and many remained with her.
On Aug. 31, they left "Camp Casey," as the vigil site came to be called. They split into three groups and traveled through the eastern half of the nation. In all, the groups - the northern, central and southern tours - plan to stop in 28 states before converging on Washington.
New Haven was a convenient stop for the northern tour, Sheehan said in a brief interview before entering a waiting mobile home headed for New York. She had been in Providence earlier in the day. Sheehan said she didn't know Bush was born in New Haven and attended school in the city.
Sheehan took the stage late in the afternoon and was awash in cheers and sunlight.
Her son, she told the crowd, "was sent to Iraq. He was sent to his death by a man who was afraid to talk to me. A man that had no courage. ... And if George Bush had as much courage and integrity in his entire body as my son had in his pinky nail, he would have met with me. But you know what, if he had that much integrity, this never would have happened. We wouldn't be standing here."
She told the crowd about an ulterior motive for joining her on Sept. 24.
"We have to have 5 million people there so the media will say we had 500,000. You'll read in your paper tomorrow that there were a couple hundred people here. I don't know, I'd say a thousand."
Estimates ranged from about 500 to 1,200, according to observers. Police did not have estimates available.
Names were read of more than two dozen people with Connecticut ties who died in Iraq. Jeff Key of Alabama, who served in Iraq in 2003 as a Marine reservist and is traveling with the tour, sounded taps.
Not everyone in the crowd supported Sheehan's appearance. There were arguments in the crowd between peace activists and a mother and daughter who have a family member overseas.
Branford resident April Mongillo's son, Edward, is in Afghanistan. She held up a sign that said, "Everyone knows the risks when they take the oath."
Mongillo and her daughter, Jamie, said the event was disrespecting the troops. The mother raised her voice when people questioned her.
"If it wasn't for my son signing up, there would be a draft," she yelled. "I won't shush."
Edward Anderson of New Haven, one of those who exchanged words with the Mongillos, accused them of "blindly" following the lead of the administration. "Yeah, yeah. Great. Rah-rah, wave the flag," he said.
Judy Case of Cheshire, another person who had sparred with the Mongillos, called the disruption unfortunate. In a way, they're on the same side, she said.
"We're doing it for them, I feel," she said.
Sheehan's effort to end the war is being supported by families of veterans and former military members. Sponsoring the three tours are Sheehan's Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Vets Against the War and Veterans for Peace.
More than a dozen speakers, some from those organizations, urged people to contact their legislators and anyone they can think of to talk about withdrawing troops. Nearly 1,900 servicemen and women have died in Iraq since the beginning of the war, according to an Associated Press count Sunday.
The speakers gave reasons for their strong feelings.
There was Tammara Rosenleaf of Helena, Mont., whose husband is about to be deployed to Iraq. "I don't think there's anything worse they can do to him then to send him to an unjust war," she said.
Anne Roesler of Saratoga, Calif., broke down when she talked about her son, who is heading to Iraq for his third tour. Carlos Arredondo of Rosindale, Mass., a native of Costa Rica, talked about how he lost his son to the war. Another speaker said her son committed suicide when he returned from Iraq.
Michael Hoffman of Bucks County, Pa., a founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War, said a new survey shows that 52 percent of Americans now support withdrawal of U.S. troops as soon as possible.
"The majority of Americans want the troops home now," he said.
The rally attracted many Connecticut speakers who wanted to add their voices to the protest. Roger Vann, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Connecticut, led the crowd in a chant: "Dissent is Patriotic. End the Gulf Wars."
Kathleen Sloan, executive director of the Connecticut National Organization for Women, drew loud applause when she accused the Bush administration of turning Iraq into "a breeding and training ground for terrorists."
"The war has drained the U.S. of vital resources, desperately needed to assist the victims of Katrina, and the millions of poor, unemployed and uninsured Americans here in the United States," she said.
The makeup of the crowd, varying in age but mostly white, didn't go unnoticed by the Rev. Cornell Lewis of the Men of Color Initiative. "A strong movement - anti-war movement - must include people of color."
Lewis was one of many diverse voices at the rally. The lineup of Connecticut speakers included another Hartford-area resident, Marela Zacarias from Latinos Contra La Guerra, or Latinos Against the War, who spoke in Spanish at the end of her speech. New Haven peace activist Dawood Yasin, a Muslim, also addressed the crowd.
Organizer John Shanley said his 72-year-old mother was there. It's Sheehan's appeal that brought her there, he said.