Saturday, August 27, 2005

My Protesters Can Whup Your Protesters

Star-Telegram - President Bush's supporters poured into Crawford Saturday by the thousands, for the first time outnumbering war protesters led by Cindy Sheehan, who began a vigil here three weeks ago, demanding a personal meeting with the vacationing president to talk about her son's death in Iraq.

Under tight police security and intense heat, tempers flared and traffic was clogged. But by late in the afternoon only two people had been arrested for what the Secret Service described as a minor "attitude thing."

An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people attended a pro-Bush rally in Crawford, waving flags and pledging their allegiance to U.S. troops. At times, they accused Cindy Sheehan of dishonoring the war death of her own son, Casey, who was in the Army.

Jeannine McEwin, 69, said she and her husband, Harold, made the six-hour trip from their home on Toledo Bend Lake, a mile from the Louisiana border, to help conservatives overcome the dominance anti-war demonstrators have had here since Sheehan came to town on Aug. 6.

"The left has had so much publicity, and we have sat back and done nothing," McEwin said. "We have allowed them to take over."

Emotions ran the highest at a bend on Prairie Chapel Road, with war-protesters on one side, Bush supporters on the other side, and local police and state troopers in the middle. Sheehan's followers accused Bush of lying about his reasons for going to war in Iraq, answered by a sign held by a Bush supporter that said: "Repent you Treasons."

Police also expressed concern that several families, who lost children to the war, had planned to invade the war protest camps and pull up crosses bearing the names of their own chiildren. It was not immediately known whether any of them were successful in doing so.

"We want to so bad we can taste it," said Sandy Watson of Phoenix, whose son, Michael Williams, was killed in Iraq in 2003. "We don't want (Sheehan) to have our son's cross out there."

Instead of facing off with the anti-war crowd, Bush supporter Shawn Wroblewski, of Jefferson Township, N.J., said she asked the McLennan County Sheriff's Department to look for a cross bearing the name of her son, John Thomas, a Marine who was killed in Iraq last year. "Two weeks ago I called the Crawford sheriff and asked him to kindly remove my son's cross if it was there. He assured me that he would," Wroblewski said.

Milton Pittman of Arlington and Libby Patterson of Fort Worth said they drove to Crawford to show their support for Bush and were amazed by the large crowds. "I think it shows the freedom of speech that we have in America," said Patterson.

Pittman agreed, calling the pro-Bush crowds "very cordial, like regular people," while saying the anti-war demonstrators seemed "confused."

Sheree Kirsch of Mansfield also drove to Crawford Saturday. But her plans were to sell her barbecue sauce at the local restaurant, not realizing she would find herself in the middle of a national debate, and one of the largest war demonstrations since the Vietnam War.

"I did not know this was going to be today," said Kirsch, as she tried to keep pace with the line of people asking for her free samples of sauce and chips. She added, "Everybody I've talked to in here has been pro-Bush."