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Turning Out to Support a Mother's Protest
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
Published: August 18, 2005
CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 17 - Supporters of Cindy Sheehan held more than 1,500 candlelight vigils across the country on Wednesday night in solidarity with this mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, who has set up a protest encampment down the road from President Bush's ranch here.
War protesters held candles in Davis Square in Boston Wednesday, at one of 1,500 events around the nation coordinated by MoveOn.org.
The vigils, coordinated by the advocacy group MoveOn.org, were held in places from Lafayette Park across from the White House to Rockefeller Center to Clover Park in Santa Monica, Calif. MoveOn.org organizers said that they had received 50,000 R.S.V.P.'s via e-mail by midday Wednesday and that they expected the turnout to be double that.
Organizers said the response showed how Ms. Sheehan had become a catalyst for an antiwar movement that had been relatively unfocused since the 2004 presidential campaign.
"She's like a herald, waking everybody up," said Tom Matzzie, the Washington director for MoveOn.org.
At the vigil here at Camp Casey, named for Ms. Sheehan's dead son, about 200 supporters marched along the roadside in the prairie dusk with lighted candles, read aloud the names of dozens of dead over a coffin drapped with a flag, then sang "Amazing Grace." Ms. Sheehan, her voice breaking, said she had pretended that she was holding her son's hand as she had walked hand-in-hand with a supporter at the vigil.
"I'll never get to see him again," she said. "I'll never get to hear his voice again. I'll never to get to hug him or kiss him or joyfully welcome my grandchildren. This is about flesh and blood. This is what we're here for."
At another vigil in Union Square in New York, about 300 supporters of Ms. Sheehan gathered, holding placards critical of Mr. Bush and the Iraq war, and one protester dressed like a hooded prisoner in the infamous photos from the Abu Ghraib prison.
In Lafayette Park, a crowd gathered with litghted candles and signs that read "Tell Cindy the Truth!" and "Get Off the Lazy W Ranch."
Viola Lucero, who was visiting from Oakland, Calif., said she decided to participate because she had followed Ms. Sheehan's protest since it began.
"It's probably the most respectful thing she could do in honor of her son - trying to get answers," Ms. Lucero said.
Some 250 supporters gathered for a vigil in Somerville, Mass., north of Boston, while 150 people turned out in White Plains and 200 people assembled in a field next to the expressway west of downtown Chicago. In New York, people gathered at 106th Street and Broadway, and in Riverside Park.
She also said that she would move her encampment closer to the president, to pastureland adjacent to a Secret Service checkpoint about a mile from the Bush ranch. That pasture was offered to her by a local landowner, Fred Mattlage.