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...  Mother of All Protesters running hot on dissent

Village Voice October 19 2005
Cindy Sheehan Pledges Civil Disobedience Campaign
Peace mom plans more arrests in D.C.—and Thanksgiving in Crawford
by Sarah Ferguson
Cindy Sheehan made a return visit to the streets of New York Wednesday, joining the weekly vigil of Grandmothers Against the War outside Rockefeller Center.
Cindy Sheehan joins a Fifth Avenue peace vigil by Grandmothers Against the War. photo: Fred Askew

In contrast to the scene in Union Square last month, when the police stormed the podium and cut off Sheehan’s mic, this time the NYPD went out of its way to be gracious to America’s leading peace mom.

Police politely urged the jostling camera crews and passing tourists to “please clear the sidewalk,” overseen by the NYPD’s top spokesperson Paul J. Browne, who said he was there to prevent any rush-hour snafus. “It’s the hometown of NBC, so it’s a big TV area,” Browne said, with a shrug.

But if the event was less a protest than a love fest between Sheehan and her elderly fans, who lined up for autographs and snapshots with the celebrity activist and plied her with heart-shaped sugar cookies, Sheehan still had plenty of fighting words for President Bush and New York’s pro-war senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, who’s widely said to be mulling a bid for the White House.

“I think that if anybody wants to run for president in 2008, then they have to come out against the war, and if they don’t then we don’t support them, whether it’s Hillary or whoever it is that’s going to run for president,” charged Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in Baghdad's Sadr City last year.

“The last time I was here, Chuck Schumer’s aide stated to me that the senator thinks the war in Iraq was a great thing for America,” Sheehan alleged. “I don’t think the people of New York believe that. We the people have to start taking responsibility for our democracy and firing leaders who do not represent us.”

Sheehan’s challenge to Clinton and Schumer not to take their heavily antiwar base in New York for granted echoed a scathing message she posted Saturday on Michael Moore’s website, in which she termed Clinton a “political animal who believes she has to be a war hawk to keep up with the big boys.”

Saying she “will not make the mistake of supporting another pro-war Democrat for president again,” Sheehan warned Clinton she would “resist your candidacy with every bit of my power and strength unless you show us the wisdom it takes to be a truly great leader.”

That got a rise out of
Rush Limbaugh, who termed Sheehan either “gutsy or stupid” for taking on the Democrats’ leading lady.

Sheehan was all smiles as she milled among the antiwar grannies, 18 of whom were arrested for trying to enlist at the Times Square Recruiting Station on Monday.

Her plans for this trip to New York are fairly low key. Besides doing press interviews, she’ll be guest hosting on Air America with Randi Rhodes on Friday at 6 p.m. and giving the keynote address at the Brooklyn Peace Fair this Saturday at 11 a.m.

But Sheehan vowed to turn up the heat by returning to the front gate of the White House as soon as the death toll of American soldiers hits 2,000 (as of Thursday, the Department of Defense reported 1,982, including the five killed Wednesday). “I’m going to deliver a speech and then I’m going to get arrested. And when I get out I’m going to go back and get arrested,” Sheehan told the Voice.

Sheehan said she now believes lobbying and marching in the streets is no longer enough and that “nonviolent civil disobedience is the way we have to go” to end the war.

“Hundreds of thousands of people were in D.C. on September 24 and the leaders still are not leading us,” Sheehan said of last month’s antiwar demo in Washington. “They’re still spouting the Republican talking points even if they’re Democrats. So what are we going to do? It’s going to have to be massive non-violent civil disobedience I believe.”

Sheehan said she and her fellow members of Gold Star Families for Peace, along with other military families and veterans, plan to hit the road again for another speaking tour in November, caravanning from the West Coast to Crawford, Texas, where they will reprise their “Camp Casey” protest over Thanksgiving weekend and demand once again that the president meet with them to explain what noble cause their loved ones were dying for.  “We’re going to invite George and Laura—and tell Laura to bring the turkey,” the peace mom quipped.

Village Voice October 24 2005
Mother of All Protesters
Talking with Cindy Sheehan, center of a rallying movement against war in Iraq
by Kristen Lombardi

Cindy Sheehan: 'This war is one issue where they should vote from their hearts, with courage and integrity.' photo: Steven Sunshine

Cindy Sheehan, the superstar of the anti-war movement, will descend upon the White House on the day U.S. casualties in Iraq hit 2,000—a grim milestone expected any day now. Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in Iraq last year, will say a few words in protest, and then tie herself to the fence. She says she won't leave until she's arrested. Once she's out of jail, she promises, she'll go right back to the fence.

And when she's done with that, she intends to set up a new Camp Casey outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, hounding him throughout the Thanksgiving holiday.

She has also been hounding the Democrats—especially Hillary Clinton. Earlier this month, Sheehan penned an article denouncing New York's junior senator as a "pro-war Democrat," calling her "a political animal who believes she has to be a war hawk to keep up with the big boys." Sheehan echoed the charge on Saturday, when she appeared at the Brooklyn Peace Fair, among other anti-war events in New York City. Delivering a speech to a crowd of 200-plus—many of whom shouted "We love you Cindy!" and "You're the best!"—she urged fellow anti-war activists to hold Clinton accountable when she runs for re-election next year. "It's time to call a war hawk a war hawk," she said, to rousing applause. "And if it hurts people politically, so be it."

The Voice caught up with Sheehan after her speech.

You've been credited with galvanizing a movement that had been in hibernation. Well, I think I was the spark. The movement was there, but it was like dry kiln. It needed a spark to catch on fire and, ever since, it has spread and spread and spread.

How have you seen this since the first Camp Casey, in August? I've noticed a total difference at anti-war events. I used to speak before crowds of a hundred, and sometimes 50. Now the crowds are larger; the enthusiasm is greater; the counter-protests are fewer. Even before Camp Casey, I was on the Alan Colmes Show. At first, callers were all hostile. But I was on the other night and callers were supportive. One caller respectfully disagreed with me. But he did say, 'Well, I have to agree with you on that point.' So I see the mood changing.

What sparked your article denouncing Clinton earlier this month? She was in California fundraising recently, and Code Pink went out to protest. They were passing out fliers on her voting record. I was going to go. But then one of her supporters, somebody I love, called me and asked me not to go. I said, 'Out of respect for you, I won't. Not out of respect for Hillary Clinton.' I challenged my friend, saying, 'How could you support someone who met with me yet still says this is not a good time to withdraw troops?' Senator Clinton

has said she wants to make sure my son didn't die in vain. Don't use my son's death to justify continued killing in Iraq.

So should anti-war Democrats here abandon Clinton next year and beyond? I'm not going to support another pro-war Democrat. I made that mistake with John Kerry last year and I'm not going to do it again. While I've been here this week, I've seen tremendous support for this view. The majority of New Yorkers are against this war. So if the senator will start speaking out against the war and calling for withdrawal of troops, then support her. But if she is for more troops, don't.

Do you think New Yorkers would kick the senator out of office over one issue? Yes. It's the mood I get. It's more than dissatisfaction. People know this war is the most important issue, and they know it's not like bringing home pork for your state. It's life and death; it's flesh and blood. I'm challenging Senator Clinton to speak out, but I'm also challenging the people of New York to exercise their vote and force their senator to represent their values.

What have you learned as an icon for the movement? Politics are really frustrating. I realize that I have to work within the system but it's frustrating. Every decision a politician makes is weighed. They ask, 'If I do this, am I going to get re-elected?' This war is one issue where they should vote from their hearts, with courage and integrity. I've also learned that people have power and we're the ones who have to effect true change. Look back in history at the civil-rights movement, the women's suffragist movement, the labor movement. The grassroots forced change, and that's what the peace movement is doing.

You're going to the White House this week. What's the message you want to bring? We have to invest everything we have right now to ensure our children and their children have a future. I believe what the Bush administration is doing is harmful to our present but it will be more harmful to our future. It's contaminating a region with depleted uranium. It's depleting our treasury. And if it has its way, it'll wage an eternal war in the Middle East. We have to change this. I'm going to Washington with my sister, Dede, who was my partner in crime in Crawford. I'm going to relay this message, and get arrested. And when I get out of jail, I'm going to go back and do the same.