Mon, Aug 29, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Pro-Bush protesters rally and tussle in support of Iraq war


Several thousand people descended on US President George W. Bush's adopted hometown, attending a rally supporting him or arriving for the last leg of an anti-war demonstration near his ranch.

The pro-Bush rally on Saturday by the school football stadium was the culmination of the "You don't speak for me, Cindy!" tour that started last week in California -- referring to the protest that peace activist Cindy Sheehan started on Aug. 6 near Bush's ranch.

Several times the crowd of about 1,500 chanted, "Cindy, go home!"

"You are giving hope and encouragement to the enemies of America," said former California assemblyman Howard Kaloogian, a Republican who co-founded Move America Forward, the group that coordinated the rally.

Meanwhile, busloads of war protesters gathered several kilometers away at "Camp Casey," named for Sheehan's 24-year-old son who died in Iraq last year, for a bell-ringing ceremony on Saturday to honor soldiers serving in Iraq.

Organizers estimated the size of the crowd at more than 2,000, but it appeared smaller.

"I know that the Camp Casey movement is going to end the war in Iraq," Sheehan said, adding that no other families should have to suffer the loss of a relative.

She led the crowd in chanting "Not one more!"

Traffic was at a crawl for hours in the one-stoplight town of 700 people, and law-enforcement agencies from nearby cities were called in to help.

At the pro-Bush rally, there were some heated moments when two members of Protest Warrior, a group that frequently holds counter-protests to anti-war rallies, walked in with a sign reading "Say No to War -- Unless a Democrat is President."

Many Bush supporters only saw the top of the sign and believed the men were war protesters, so they began shouting and chasing the pair out. One man tore up their signs.

When Will Marean of Minneapolis kept repeating that he was on the Bush side and tried to explain Protest Warrior's mission, one Bush supporter shook his hand and apologized.

Later on Saturday, a few Bush supporters went to the edge of the anti-war camp trying to remove some of the hundreds of white crosses bearing fallen soldiers' names.

They had a list from families who didn't want their sons' or daughters' names associated with Sheehan's group. Sheriff's deputies said they could remove the name tags but not the crosses, so the group removed a few tags and left.

Several families of fallen US soldiers attended the rally, including John Wroblewski and his wife from Jefferson Township, New Jersey.

The couple, whose oldest son, Marine 2nd Lieutenant John Thomas Wroblewski, died in Iraq last year, said they disagree with Sheehan's beliefs that Bush misled Americans about the reasons for the war.

"We're not for war. I don't think anybody is ... but we've got to complete the mission," John Wroblewski said.

Deena Burnett, whose husband Tom was on the fourth plane hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001, said he and the other passengers fought the terrorists before their plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

"Now it's up to us to continue what he started," Burnett said on Saturday to cheers from those at the pro-Bush rally.

It was the largest counter protest since Sheehan started camping out off the road leading to Bush's ranch after his Texas vacation began.

A handful of Bush supporters have set up a small camp in a ditch across the street from Sheehan's site, and another pro-Bush camp opened beside a downtown souvenir store last weekend.

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