About 100 war protesters ended a monthlong vigil near President Bush’s ranch with a rally on their campsite Saturday, and planned to move the demonstration close to the White House.
“We wanted to try to build momentum and needed something to move the focus back to Washington,” said retired Army Col. Ann Wright, who resigned as a U.S. diplomat in 2003 to protest the war with Iraq.
The two-week “Camp Democracy” demonstration starts Tuesday on the mall in Washington, centering on issues including the war, environment, health care and attention to Hurricane Katrina victims, organizers said.
Cindy Sheehan, whose oldest son Casey died in Iraq in 2004, started the Crawford protest camp in early August on a 5-acre lot she bought in July. About 50 demonstrators have camped on the land, and a previous weekend’s cookout drew more than 100.
Attendance was significantly lower than last summer’s protest, when more than 10,000 people streamed into Crawford over Sheehan’s 26-day vigil in ditches off the rural road leading to Bush’s ranch. But protesters said they were not disappointed.
“I think behind everyone who’s here are dozens of people,” said Allie Light, 71, of San Francisco, who also attended last summer’s protest. “I feel the message has gone farther. There are more people she speaks for.”
Bush supporter James Vergauwen sat in a convenience store parking lot in downtown Crawford on Saturday afternoon, under a tent with a sign reading “The Price of Freedom Is Not Free.”
The Vietnam veteran from Windthorst, near the Oklahoma line, said he and his wife been staying in his RV in the parking lot the past few weeks to counter Sheehan’s protest. Tourists and other supporters stop by or sit with him and thank him, he said.
“She has the right to say whatever she wants, and she does, but she doesn’t have the right to slander,” said Vergauwen, who added he was also supporting Bush in Crawford last summer.
Sheehan, who had a hysterectomy last week, said Saturday that she was recovering and would not be able to attend the Washington protest.