After protesting for a month outside President George W. Bush’s vacation ranch in Crawford, Tex., Cindy Sheehan brought her “Bring Them Home Now” bus tour to another one-time home of the president Sunday.
Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq in April 2004, led an anti-war rally on the New Haven Green this weekend. The rally drew approximately 1,000 attendees, most of whom were area residents, with relatively few students in attendance.
During Sheehan’s month in Texas, Bush refused to meet with her, prompting intense media attention.
“My son was afraid to go into the battle that killed him, but he went anyways and that’s courage,” Sheehan said. “He was sent there by a man who didn’t have the courage to meet with me.”
Sheehan said a meeting with Bush would not matter anymore, however.
“We’ve gone over his head to those who employ him,” she said.
Scott Harris, executive producer of the “Between the Lines” radio show that hosted a forum Saturday featuring former U.N. weapons inspector and critic of the Iraq war Scott Ritter, said Sheehan has reinvigorated the anti-war movement
“Scott Ritter is the head of the opposition and Cindy Sheehan is the heart,” Harris said. “She gave people the emotional connection.”
The bus tour visit was sponsored by Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Vets Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Gold Star Families for Peace, which Sheehan helped found. With three buses, the 21-day tour will have visited 51 cities in 28 states with over 200 events, organizers said. The tour will reach Washington, D.C. in time for a Sept. 24 rally. Supporters plan to lobby Congress Sept. 26.
Sean Flores of Naugatuck, Conn. who attended the rally, said he supports Sheehan’s messsage.
“It was very important for her to speak,” Flores said. “It’s a beautiful country that lets that happen.”
Vietnam veteran Elliot Adams spoke at the rally about his personal motivation for joining the tour.
“I was forced on the tour by the pain of seeing another generation go off to war,” Adams said. “After Vietnam, we said, ‘Never again,’ and here we are again.”
But Linda DeAntonio of North Haven, an attendee whose son served a year in Afghanistan, said she opposes Sheehan’s campaign.
“I really don’t believe in what she’s doing,” DeAntonio said. “She’s demeaning the troops over there. They need to know we’re behind them.”
Though the rally was peaceful, a few attendees traded barbs with the handful of people protesting the rally.
Preceding the bus tour visit was a series of local speakers who approached the Iraq war with their own perspectives.
Alfred Marder, chairman of the Greater New Haven Peace Council, said in his speech that he feels the anti-war movement is gathering momentum.
“Every day we are getting more and more adherents,” he said. “We have to get more aggressive.”
Cornell Lewis, a preacher and activist who spoke at the rally, said the lack of racial diversity at the rally represents a shortcoming of the anti-war movement.
“All I see is white people,” he said. “If the anti-war movement wants to grow stronger, it needs people of color.”
Cody Camacho, an Iraq veteran participating in the Bus Tour, read the names of the 32 Connecticut residents killed in Iraq as the standing crowd watched silently. Another veteran played taps once he had finished. The American Friends Service Committee sponsored a display of 32 pairs of boots to commemorate the soldiers.