Protesters square off near Bush ranch

Tensions are mounting in the Texas town near US President George Bush’s ranch, as a small army of his supporters poured in to challenge demonstrators opposed to the war in Iraq.

A sheriff's deputy confronts a demonstrator in Crawford
A sheriff's deputy confronts a demonstrator in Crawford

Protests and counter-protests were planned throughout Saturday in Crawford, with both sides flying the US flag or wearing red, white and blue, and everyone agreeing that it was paramount to “support the troops” fighting thousands of miles away.

Two names were on everyone’s lips: Cindy Sheehan, the central anti-war protester whose son Casey was killed in Iraq in April 2004, and Gary Qualls, whose son Louis was killed in Iraq and who has objected to Sheehan supporters using a cross with his son’s name in their protest.

Pro-Bush demonstrators, with headquarters at a makeshift “Fort Qualls” in central Crawford, planned a midday rally, while Sheehan’s supporters, settled at “Camp Casey” outside this town of 705 people, were expected to hold a noon peace vigil.

“Camp Casey is just that, a camp. This is a fort. This is a war, and we’re going to win it,” Bill Johnson, 63, said while sitting in the shade at Fort Qualls, which is on his property.

Diane Wallin shows her support for US President George Bush

Diane Wallin shows her support
for US President George Bush

Nearby, sweating in the searing Texas summer sun, was Brad Ward, who drove from Austin, Texas, to Crawford early Saturday and waved a sign with a peace symbol on it and the description “Footprint of the American Chicken”.

“I’m here to support the president and the troops and honor the fallen hero, Specialist Casey Sheehan, since his mother is disgracing his memory,” said Ward, an army veteran who never saw combat because “the Gulf War ended before I could get over there”.

Ward, who packed “a big cooler full of water” for his daylong trip to Crawford, urged reporters to “tell our side, since you told hers (Sheehan’s)”.

‘No real trouble’

A private security guard, taking a cigarette break in the shade of a giant plastic monument to the Ten Commandments, said there had been a few shouting matches but “no real trouble”.

Johnson, who owns a souvenir store that does brisk business in Bush-related trinkets, said he was moved to act when Qualls came to him, angry that Sheehan supporters had planted a cross with his son’s name on it at their camp.

“It’s wrong what they’re doing, putting up those crosses without the families’ permission,” he said.

Sheriff’s deputies arrest a pro-war demonstrator in Crawford

Sheriff’s deputies arrest a pro-war
demonstrator in Crawford

Over at the Crawford Peace House, anti-war activists were hard pressed to control the caravan of cars pulling in, crowded with Sheehan supporters. One protester waved a sign that said “Impeach Bush, his lies kill”.

The president stayed out of sight on Saturday, but in his weekly radio address he urged patience with Iraq’s constitutional process, saying Iraqis were “making the tough choices and compromises necessary for a free and peaceful future”.

“Our efforts in Iraq and the broader Middle East will require more time, more sacrifice and continued resolve. Yet people across the Middle East are choosing a future of freedom and prosperity and hope,” he said.

Source : AFP

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