War protester Sheehan leaves camp
Published: Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 12:00 a.m.
CRAWFORD, Texas - Cindy Sheehan packed up her campsite outside President Bush's ranch Wednesday and took her war protest on the road, ending a nearly monthlong vigil that drew thousands and ignited an anti-war movement.
Rather than heading home to California, the grieving mother of a 24-year-old solider who died in Iraq boarded one of three buses heading on tour to spreading her message.
"This is where I'm going to spend every August from now on," Sheehan said as she smiled and waved through a bus window.
The group plans to stop in 25 states during the next three weeks, then take Sheehan's "Bring Them Home Now Tour" to the nation's capital for a Sept. 24 anti-war march.
Sheehan's first stop was Austin for a rally later Wednesday. On Friday, protesters plan to go to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's office in the Houston area.
Sheehan had vowed to stay in Crawford until Bush's monthlong vacation ended or until she could question him about the war that claimed the life of her son Casey and more than 1,870 other U.S. soldiers.
"When I first started here, I was sitting in the ditch thinking, 'What the heck did I do? Texas in August, the chiggers, fire ants, rattlesnakes, uncomfortable accommodations' - but I'm going to be sad leaving here," she said. "I hope people will say that the Camp Casey movement sparked a peace movement that ended the war in Iraq and that Camp Casey was a place for love and hope."
While two top Bush administration officials talked to Sheehan the first day, the president never did during her Crawford stay - although he has said that he sympathizes with her and she has the right to protest. His vacation ended Wednesday, two days early, so he could monitor federal efforts to help hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast.
As Sheehan stayed on and word of a vigil spread over the Internet, anti-war demonstrators started showing up - by the hundreds. Most stayed a few hours, joining rallies and candlelight vigils and praying together.
The protest also sparked counter rallies by Bush supporters who accused Sheehan of using her son's death to push the liberal agendas of groups supporting her. Critics said the anti-war demonstration was hurting U.S. troop morale while boosting the Iraqi insurgency. One fallen soldier's father started a pro-Bush camp in Crawford in the name of his son, and a mother led a cross-country caravan to Crawford dubbed the "You don't speak for me, Cindy!" tour.
Sheehan, who plans to leave the tour next week to spend time with her family, including her mother who recently suffered a stroke, says the massive response from supporters has transformed her life. "I thought nobody cared about our children killed in the war, but millions care, and millions care about our country and want to make it better," she said.
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