CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) - Peace activist Cindy Sheehan returned to Texas on Wednesday for another war protest near President Bush's ranch, although he was to spend the weekend at Camp David.
The anti-war demonstrators accused Bush, who has spent every Easter at his Crawford ranch since he was elected, of running from them and their message to bring the U.S. troops home from Iraq immediately.
"We chased him away from his ranch," said Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004. "We protest all over the country without him being in attendance, so I don't think it takes away (from this vigil) a bit because he never met with us anyway. It wasn't even like we ever sat down and had sweet tea together."
But the White House said Bush's plans had nothing to do with the protesters and that he often spends holidays at Camp David with his family.
"The president looks forward to returning to Crawford whenever possible," said a White House spokesman, Blair Jones. "It's the right of the American people to peacefully express their views. The president welcomes the opinions of all Americans."
|(AP) Peace activist Cindy Sheehan tries to get Luna the peace dog to look up for a photo at the airport...|
The group's third Crawford protest in less than a year includes candlelight vigils, a rally and a march. The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr., is to speak at a sunrise Easter Sunday service.
"We're going to do what we do all the time: gather together in peace," Sheehan said. "We're going to call for George Bush and the neo-cons not to invade Iran. That would be a mistake even worse than Iraq. Our children are sitting ducks in the Middle East; the people of Iran and Iraq would be sitting ducks. And I'm not even sure that this invasion won't lead to World War III. So it's something that we have to stop before it starts."
The U.N. Security Council has ordered Iran to stop enriching uranium by April 28, and the chief nuclear inspector heads to Iran for talks Friday to try to resolve the international standoff. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on the Security Council to consider "strong steps" against Iran. The U.S. wants sanctions because it fears Iran aims for nuclear weapons.
Sheehan came to the one-stoplight, 700-resident town of Crawford Aug. 6 after speaking at a Veterans for Peace convention in Dallas.
Sheehan and about 50 others marched toward Bush's ranch and a few camped out in ditches, vowing to remain until he answered her questions about the war with Iraq. Two of his top aides met with Sheehan that first day, but Bush never did during his monthlong working vacation.
Her 26-day vigil drew some 10,000 protesters and grew to two camps, including a larger, one-acre lot donated by a sympathetic landowner.
The protest also upset locals who complained of traffic congestion on the winding, two-lane road. It also drew thousands of Bush supporters who set up a counter camp and said Sheehan was hurting troop morale.
Sheehan and a few hundred anti-war demonstrators returned to Crawford for a second war protest during Thanksgiving week while Bush was again at his ranch.