Peasants on the March to King George

This morning I sit at my keyboard in awe of the events of this past weekend. Cindy Sheehan’s trip to Crawford to talk to President Bush started out as just a small idea Wednesday evening. None of us thought for even a minute that it would snowball into the media and historic event that it has now become. Cindy, Dede and I thought the journey would be made by the three of us and maybe some veterans from the Veterans for Peace convention we were attending.

Saturday morning we boarded the VFP Impeach Bush bus, along with a platoon of vets sent by VFP to go with us. A caravan of cars followed behind, filled with vets and others who had come to support us. The vets on that bus are some of the most inspiring, honorable and heroic men I have ever met. They inspired me and helped to heal my broken heart. These are people I had to explain nothing to because they know how I feel. They’ve been there. They’ve buried their buddies and seen the worst of humanity. I will forever have a warm spot in my heart for them.

When we arrived at the Peace House in Crawford we were so happy to see even more supporters waiting for us! People from Code Pink came out in droves, people who had heard about what we were about to do on the radio came to support us. The media, the mainstream media that hardly reports on these things, came to see us, to see Cindy. When I stepped off that bus, I was in tears, so grateful for the support from so many strangers.

I want to extend a special thanks to Crawford House and the wonderful people who run it. They are amazing people who give freely of their time and their lives. They are supporting Cindy’s vigil and giving her a safe place to be if and when she needs it.

The local Sheriff of Crawford escorted us to the location for our demonstration. The events have been reported throughout the world, so all of you know what happened. They made us walk in the bar ditch in knee high weeds full of bugs, fire ants (really nasty little things) and possibly snakes. The walking was hard. The sun beat down on us in the 100 degree Texas heat in the middle of the day. Conditions were miserable. But we pushed on. Cindy, Dede and I were in the front, leading our supporters. I don’t know for sure how far we walked, and I’ve heard various reports from a half a mile to a mile.

I couldn’t help but feel we were the peasants going to the castle to ask for an audience with King George, only to be stopped and told the King wouldn’t see us.

So, we protested. We shouted. I met a mother who had come to support us whose son is in Iraq. We hugged and I told her I hope he comes home safe and whole. We cried together. While I was sitting on the ground with ants biting my legs giving an interview, sweat rolling down my face, loving hands rolled the sleeves of my T-shirt up, telling me I’d be more comfortable that way. I do not know who this angel was, but bless her!!

After the protests, the interviews, the threats of arrest because we dared to step foot on the road (where the media was en masse, I might add), people headed back down that road for water, for comfort. Cindy, Dede and several others settled in, sitting on the side of the road in the bar ditch, determined to hold vigil where they were. I headed back to my car (a friend drove it there for me) for chairs, umbrellas for shade and water to take back. After walking all that time, after being out in the heat all that time, the Sheriff would not let us cross back over their imaginary line in the road to take water to our friends. They waited until we crossed their line before we were informed of this. Many of us were outraged. Fortunately, I was able to get hold of Dede and tell her what was going on via cell phone.

Eventually Cindy, Dede and the rest of the bunch with them pulled back to the position they are in now. At least they have some shade where they are, but it is not a comfortable place to be. We set up camp with the help of some very determined volunteers who are passionate about peace and ending the war. Many of them are nameless to me, but I remember their faces and I love them for what they did.

We could not be on the road that no one travels. In the time I was there, over 24 hours, only one vehicle drove down that little strip of road, and I think only to harass us. But he didn’t stop. We had to set up camp in the bar ditch (again). There is a strip of land, triangular shaped, that would be a good place to hold vigil right in front of the camp, owned by the county I believe, but we could not use it. Someone set a tent up for Cindy’s use in the bar ditch, but the Secret Service told her they could not guarantee her safety if she slept there. The tent was moved to another location.

I was with Cindy when the “high level aides” came out to speak with her. I remember sitting in a chair in the ditch and seeing the SUV’s drive up and park. I watched the Secret Service men get out of the vehicles and form a perimeter around us. Then Stephen Hadley and Joe Hagin walked up to us. I didn’t recognize them at first, but once we shook hands and they introduced themselves, I knew who they were. The men were very cordial and respectful. They listened to Cindy. They listened to me and they listened to Dede. They said they would convey Cindy’s message to the President. Again, this has been reported on extensively and mostly accurately. I would say the meeting didn’t last 45 minutes, but rather 25-30 minutes.

Saturday night we camped out in our cars, in tents, in chairs, on the ground. Wherever we could fall asleep, we slept. I think that when I went to bed there were about 5-6 people with us. We watched as Secret Service vehicles drove by going 50 mph all night long. Some other traffic came by, locals probably. We always knew the locals from the Secret Service because the locals slowed down when they went past us.

We heard, via our cell phones, reports of bloggers keeping the pressure on the media and politicians. They blogged for us and about us all night long. We heard reports of candle light vigils, people lighting candles in their windows and on their front porches across the country. We felt the love, the energy and the prayers sent our way. It was comforting out there under the big star-filled Texas night, in the middle of nowhere, knowing that people around the world cared about us, watched us the best they could. None of us felt alone.

Sunday morning around 6:00 a.m. I was awakened by the sound of a siren set off by a police officer driving by. I think it was meant to intimidate us or scare us, done by an officer being a smart ass or something.

Around 7:00 a couple of angels arrived from Dallas with coffee and food for us. While I was there during the day, the media kept coming and going, taping everything we did, interviewing Cindy and doing what reporters do. We heard from people from all over the world, telling us to keep up the good work, they support our cause, they support Cindy. All morning long people came to say hello, to sit a spell and talk because they heard about us on TV and on the radio. They wanted to be a part of what we were doing, to support Cindy in her quest.

Unfortunately, I had to leave Sunday afternoon and I didn’t want to. I’m going back to Crawford to sit vigil with Cindy, Diane, and the rest of the members of Gold Star Families for Peace who plan to make the trek as soon as I can.

Thank you America and the world for your support. We want to end this war. We want to bring our soldiers home. We do not want even one more soldier to die or one more family to mourn their loss. Our soldiers are honorable and good people who deserve our support. Now, let’s bring them home!

And, thank you my fellow Texans who came out to support Cindy in her journey. Let’s keep the pressure going so Cindy can get her meeting with King George.

Author: Erik Leaver and Daniel Atzmon

Erik Leaver is the Policy Outreach Director for Foreign Policy In Focus and is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Daniel Atzmon is a student at Wesleyan University and an intern at the Institute.