Saturday, August 13, 2005

McNutt report from Crawford

I received this Monday, Aug. 15th in an email from my East Coastally connected friend, Fran. I'm back-dating this posting to August 13th -- the date sent.

Subject: Report from Crawford, TX
Date: Sat, 13 Aug 2005 03:52:59 -0400

From Rochelle McNutt, KPFT (Pacifica) News:

hello all,

lee taylor and i just got back from crawford a few hours ago and i want to try to convey a little of the feeling of what is going on there with cindy sheehan's courageous stand outsideof the bush ranch.

we drove up yesterday and arrived about 10 pm intodowntown crawford where we easily found the Crawford Peace House, purchased in 2003 by a group of people who decided rather than driving to crawford every couple of weeks to demonstrate, they would just buy a property balance out the energy in the area due tow's purchase shortly before just down the road. it was night and it was raining. we had heard of the ditches and the fire-ants, and, anyway, we didn't know where the actual camp site was, so the warm welcome we received when we walked in the door was almost over-whelming. Food and water were abundant, a delicious vegetarian soup was available to everyone, volunteers in the house were fielding phone calls for cindy from all over the u.s. and all over the world, directing parking places, assigning floor space for anyone wanting to sleep there. an entire table was full of gorgeous flower arrangements that had been sent to cindy and to the other gold star families who were joining the vigil.

after only 15 minutes, who should walk in the door but cindy sheehan herself. as lee and i were standing near the front door, she came to each of us and hugged us and thanked us for coming. she had some soup and made sure she was back at the campsite for 12:01am when it had been rumored that they would arrest her. she didn't want to disappoint them by not being there.

intimidated by the rain, the fire ants and a tent i had never set up before, we sensibly opted to drive 7 miles into macgregor and rent a motel room. we were rested and fresh and back at the peace house just after 8 am today. volunteers were offering to shuttle people the 5miles or so back and forth to the camp site, since the law enforcement agencies were restricting all kinds of no trespassing zones and parking was limited.

i had my trusty little handy-cam with me and started filming as soon as we got near the camp...a colorful cluster of banners, tents, people, cars up ahead. i was able to kneel in front of the many, many media people documenting the press conference, so i got close ups of each of the people who front of the main tent with a peace sign embroidered/painted on it, bouquets of flowers everywhere, a cross with casey sheehan's name on it, crosses with all the other fallen soldiers' names on it stretching out in both directions, 3 rows deep, between the ditches and the road.

cindy spoke first, simply and gently, saying she would not leave until she saw bush and asked him why her son had died, what was the noble cause that he had died for. she said if he would not see her and if she were not arrested, then after august 31 she would go camp out in d.c. until he would speak with her. she spoke of her son, of her family's devastation and of their support for her taking this stand, even casey, she was sure. she said the decision to come to crawford had come to her while she was typing to her email list about some event she was going to in austin...and that she just sort of saw her fingers typing..."and then from austin, i am going to crawford to ask to talk to bush".

after cindy, bill mitchell spoke. he lost his only son, the baby of the family, on the same day as cindy's son, in the same battle. cindy's son had only been in iraq 5 days when he was killed. bill's son, michael, was scheduled to return home just a few days later. bill said he had been against the war in the beginning and had protested on the first anniversary, carrying a sign saying bring our boys home now. he said that 4 days later his son was killed and 2 weeks later his boy did come home, in a coffin, in one of the coffins in the photo that caused that woman to loose her job.

after bill, celeste spoke. her younger son stood beside her. her older son was killed in iraq. then, a young woman named jean, in a green shirt, spoke. her son had been killed also. next a couple spoke who had 3 sons and 2 grandsons in iraq, none of whom have yet been killed, but they explained the anxiety they live with every day. later in the day, a woman named barbara from arkansas arrived who had lost her only child. she was interviewed later. a number of veterans for peace and even one young guy eligible for being called back in were all there, making signs, participating in whatever was going on.

i felt honored to be able to just be in the presence and lend the little support i could to these brave parents whostand straight and talk to the cameras about their losses and their grief, thru their tears, or remaining calm, just that they can keep ongoing. it was evident that they gave each other tremendous support...lots of hugs, and sitting around talking with each other later, sharing photos of their sons.

i was able to speak with and film ann wright, the woman who resigned from her 16 year position in the state department because of her disagreement with the iraq war. no one, not even the gold star families, minded being filmed or interviewed by me. i hope i can edit it all and get it onto a dvd to make available for anyone who wants to see it. there was a fantastic folk singer from oklahoma named peggy who sang her own political songs, accompanied by some congos (our very own heather, at times) and other instruments.

a woman named diane (not diane wilson, who was in her 5th day of a hunger strike and who i missed seeing somehow), a minister from dallas, was walking around having people sign a guest book. there were 250 names in it just from today. people came and went all day. cindy and a few others slept in tents (or tried to)during the nite. heather and katie said it got pretty scary about 4am with large cars driving by really fast, just beside the tents, and honking.

but, our experience spending the day at the campsite and back at the peace house, was uneventful with police. the few sheriffs at either place were friendly and easy to speak with. about mid-afternoon, 3 helicopters flew over us, apparently condi and donald and maybe bush on their way to a fund raiser on the other side of us from the ranch.

there was a great feeling of solidarity, compassion, vulnerability, thoughtfulness, hopefulness, sorrow, joy, gratitude, devastation, but, above all...connectedness. we all had a feeling that this was something really important happening and that maybe now there was going to be the shift we so desperately need in stopping this horrible and wrong war. we overheard at the camp someone saying that john conyers and maxine waters were on their way there.

our hitched ride back to the peace house was with the san francisco chronicle reporter, joe garofoli. he said his piece was on the front page today in san francisco (as another reporter's article was on the front page of the houston chronicle) and to look for the next one tomorrow. i'm sure we can find it online. he was intrigued with some of our texas bush stories and hearing a little of what's going on politically in texas.

at the peace house, as we said our goodbyes and packed up for houston, david van oz and his wife rachel arrived, on their way out to the camp.

i believe cindy arrived to camp out on either saturday or sunday and the idea and event has kept growing. it seems people come and go from all over (we met people from montana, illinois, georgia, ecuador and more) and stay as long as they can. then it seems like more people come to take their place and even multiply. they were pretty desperate for donations of food, money, medical supplies, but i think they have had a generous response. the crawford peace house is making it all possible and i think they could use some financial help.

but, most of all, i encourage all of you who are able to, to go join these brave and tender people. go for the day or for longer. cindy plans to stay til aug. 31 unless??? take what ever you can to share. help the numbers swell until bush cannot possible continue ignoring this mother's request for an answer to her question of just exactly why her son died.

sorry, i feel i've rambled and still not said what iwanted to say. it's late and i'll leave it at this. there are lots of places you will be able to get more precise and timely news, but maybe some of you will be able to get a little of the feeling from this.

let's keep on....with all hopes for an end to this war,

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