Antiwar Protester Vows to Continue Vigil Despite Vandalism at Texas Site
By Elisabeth Bumiller
The New York Times
Wednesday 17 August 2005
Crawford, Tex. - Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who has set up a vigil near President Bush's ranch, said Tuesday that she was "very disturbed" that a local resident had mowed down hundreds of small crosses bearing the names of other dead American soldiers, and that her now 10-day protest was "only the beginning" of what she described as a growing national movement to bring all American men and women home from the war.
Ms. Sheehan also said she would soon be moving her increasingly crowded roadside encampment, named Camp Casey after her son, to a large tract even closer to the president's ranch. "A kind gentleman from down the road offered us the use of his property," Ms. Sheehan told reporters on Tuesday night. Ms. Sheehan identified the man as Fred Mattlage, whom she described as a distant cousin of Larry Mattlage, a local resident who fired a shotgun across the road from the encampment on Sunday afternoon.
Ms. Sheehan said the property, which is near a Secret Service checkpoint about a mile from Mr. Bush's ranch, would have plenty of space for the parked cars that have jammed the roadside. Fred Mattlage could not be reached on Tuesday to confirm Ms. Sheehan's account.
In the meantime, a group of Mr. Bush's neighbors appeared before the McLennan County Commission on Tuesday morning asking that a no-parking zone near the president's ranch be expanded, which would effectively force the camp to move to the town of Crawford, seven miles away. Neighbors have complained of traffic jams and blocked roads, and some said they worried about the safety of their children, who started school on Tuesday.
On Monday night, the police arrested a local resident who had used a truck to mow down about half of the 500 small wooden crosses hammered into the roadside dirt. The crosses were put back in place by Ms. Sheehan's supporters on Tuesday morning.
"What happened last night is very disturbing to all of us, and it should be really disturbing to America," Ms. Sheehan said in a news conference at the camp on Tuesday morning. "Because no matter what you think about the war, we should all honor the sacrifice of the ones who have fallen. And to me it's so ironic that I'm accused of dishonoring my son's memory, by doing what I'm doing, by the other side, and then somebody comes and does this."
Ms. Sheehan, who has vowed not to leave until Mr. Bush comes off his ranch and speaks to her, said that if local residents wanted her to leave, "they should talk to their neighbor, George Bush, and tell him to talk to us." Mr. Bush did meet with Ms. Sheehan in June 2004, but she has said that the president was disrespectful to her by referring to her as "Mom" throughout the meeting.
Mr. Bush has since said he is sympathetic to Ms. Sheehan, 48, of Vacaville, Calif., whose son, Casey, an Army specialist, was killed at age 24 in Baghdad on April 4, 2004. On Tuesday a White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, affirmed Mr. Bush's words, and said that while the president disagreed with Ms. Sheehan's views, "he says he respects her right to peacefully protest."
Ms. Sheehan's supporters said they planned nearly 1,000 antiwar vigils across the country on Wednesday night.
Another Plea to the President
The day after burying their son, parents of a fallen marine urged President Bush to either send more reinforcements to Iraq or to withdraw all American troops.
"We feel you either have to fight this war right or get out," Rosemary Palmer, the mother of the marine, Lance Cpl. Edward Schroeder II, said Tuesday.
Corporal Schroeder, 23, died two weeks ago in an explosion. He was one of 16 Ohio-based marines killed over three days in Iraq.