U.S. vigils support anti-war mother
18 Aug 2005 02:59:13 GMT
CRAWFORD, Texas, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Anti-war protesters held candles, sang, and chanted in vigils across the country on Wednesday in support of Cindy Sheehan, who has camped out near President George W. Bush's ranch to urge him to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, where her son was killed a year ago.
Sheehan has become a magnet for anti-war protesters who have crowded around her since her vigil began Aug. 6 in Crawford, a community of 705 people, where Bush is on a monthlong vacation.
More than 1,800 Americans have been killed in Iraq and thousands more have been wounded.
"Each one was a valuable human life," Sheehan said at an evening vigil at her campsite. "Each one was an indispensable member of his or her family, not playthings for the people who lust for greed and power."
Liberal groups MoveOn.org, True Majority, and Democracy for America organized 1,627 candlelight "Vigils for Cindy Sheehan" in all 50 states with at least 60,000 people planning to attend, Tom Matzzie, Washington director for MoveOn.org, said.
In Crawford, a couple of hundred supporters held white candles and flowers and walked single file around a triangular patch of grass as the sun went down and a full moon emerged.
They read the names of soldiers who died in Iraq over a bullhorn in front of a flag-draped coffin and sang hymns like "Amazing Grace."
Sheehan lit a candle in front of a white cross with her son Casey's name on it and walked holding hands with an Iraq war veteran. "I was pretending to hold the hand of my son. I'll never get to seem him again, I'll never get to hear his voice again," she said crying.
Several hundred people gathered in front of the White House at dusk to show support for Sheehan and urge Bush to meet her.
They chanted "meet with Cindy, tell her the truth" and "end the war now" and held signs reading "America stands with Cindy" and "Honor our troops, respect their lives."
Many wore nametags identifying them as brother, sister, mother, father or friend of soldiers serving in Iraq or killed in Iraq.
Gilda, a 56-year-old mother of a Marine and member of "Military Families Speak Out" said Sheehan had put a face on the military families that are bearing the burden of the war.
"The rest of the population is largely oblivious," she said. "I mean they support the war. They put yellow magnets on their cars. They go out and wave flags in everybody's face, but why aren't they there. It's only us carrying this."
About a dozen counter-protesters stood close by beneath a huge banner that read "God bless our soldiers, liberating the world one tyrant at a time."
Supporters of Sheehan also protested in New York. At Union Square Park in Manhattan, several hundred people carried candles and held posters that read "Meet with Cindy," "Stop the War" and "Before One More Mother's Child is Lost."
"I am here for Cindy Sheehan, who has opened a door and motivated people who feel helpless about the Bush administration and the Iraq war. She speaks for millions around the world," said Lee Woeckener, 32, from New York.
Sheehan, from Vacaville, California, said she would pack up and leave if Bush, who met with her last year shortly after her son's death, would talk to her again. She cited Bush's love of biking -- he has a Saturday ride scheduled with cycling superstar Lance Armstrong -- in questioning his priorities.
"Why don't you take a few less bike rides and meet with people who want to meet with you?" Sheehan said earlier in the day. "You know, this is the nation's work, we're the nation."
Bush has said he sympathizes with Sheehan and others grieving the loss of family members, but will not prematurely pull U.S. troops out of Iraq.
Meanwhile, supporters flock to Sheehan's site, where tents are pitched and signs such as "Can you say Iraquagmire?" hang.
"One of the things about Camp Casey is that I came here angry, a lot of people come here angry, but it's replaced by the feeling of hope," Sheehan said. "A feeling of hope we now have that we can change the country."
A map of the United States drawn on cloth asks visitors to write which city they are from. The most concentrated appears to be California, Texas and the East Coast. But there also are scribbled locations from overseas -- Scotland, Austria, Japan, Turkey, Germany, Australia, Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay.
Sheehan supporter Tammara Rosenleaf, 47, said her husband, Army Specialist Sean Hefflin, 26, is with the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood in Texas and is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq in November.
"I could selfishly spend personal time with him right now or I could contribute my time to a movement that could save many more lives than just my husband's," she said.