Mom's Protest Riles Gun-Toting Neighbor
Associated Press | August 14, 2005
By ANGELA K. BROWN
CRAWFORD, Texas -- Undaunted by counter rallies and even a neighbor's gunshot blasts into the air, a woman whose son died in Iraq said Sunday that she will continue her anti-war demonstration near President Bush's ranch for three more weeks.
"We can't give up, no matter hard it gets," said Cindy Sheehan of Vacaville, Calif. She started the protest Aug. 6 in memory of her 24-year-old son Casey, an Army specialist killed in Iraq last year.
Her makeshift campsite along the road leading to the Western White House has grown to more than 100, and hundreds more have stopped by for a few hours to show their support. Sheehan says she won't leave "Camp Casey" until Bush meets with her and other grieving families or until his monthlong ranch visit ends.
More than 350 war protesters rallied at the site Saturday afternoon, hours after some 250 Bush supporters waved American flags in a counter rally across the street, holding signs that said Sheehan was unpatriotic and was hurting troop morale.
While about 60 in Sheehan's group held a religious service Sunday morning, a nearby landowner, Larry Mattlage, fired his shotgun twice into the air. Sheriff's deputies and Secret Service agents rushed to his house but did not arrest him.
"I ain't threatening nobody, and I ain't pointing a gun at nobody," Mattlage said. "This is Texas."
Mattlage said he was initially sympathetic toward the demonstrators, but that they have blocked roads in the area and caused traffic problems. He said he fired his gun in preparation for the dove-hunting season, but when asked if he had another motive, he said, "Figure it out for yourself."
Sheriff's deputies have kept a presence at the demonstrators' site, and more than a dozen law enforcement cars flanked the edge of the camp Saturday to keep them and the pro-Bush rally separated. A few from each side got into heated verbal exchanges, but no one was arrested.
Sheehan, 48, said she was not concerned with her own safety but that she has told others to be aware that "this could get physical, even though we are peaceful."
"I think we knew of the risks when we came down here," she said. "I'm surprised we haven't had more of that since we're in Bush country."
Sheehan, who met with two top Bush administration officials on her first day of the protest, said some of her supporters have left the campsite but that others keep arriving from around the country.
Bush has said he sympathizes with Sheehan but has not said if he will meet with her.
Sherry Bohlen of Scottsdale, Ariz., drove with two friends to Crawford last week but didn't leave Sunday as planned.
"This is history in the making, and it's hard to walk away from that," said Bohlen, whose son Thor has been in Iraq for a month.