Thursday, August 18, 2005

Report From Crawford

Okay. I give up. The manifesto just isn’t going to get written. With more peace events and sick puppies* and just trying to have a sort-of life, I’m feeling a little spun this week. I’m a total creature of habit, so even the tiniest change to my routine puts everything off-kilter.

Here’s the abbreviated (sort of), just-the-facts (with a little editorializing) version Crawford:

Events began for me on Friday night as I dashed around town stocking up on protest supplies and road-trip sundries (lest we get stuck somewhere for more than 15 minutes; yes, I’m a former girl scout). Despite my promise to myself that I would go to bed very early, I was up very late making signs. I made one with “Real Texas Don’t Hide,” which was a big hit at the rally.

Saturday was an early morning to meet the caravan at a pre-arranged spot and a pre-arranged time. Unfortunately, sometimes that whole waffling criticism of liberals is entirely too true. In trying to please everyone, the organizers had added later departures. So only three of us showed up for the 8.00 a.m. departure: me, Lopez!, and a wonderful woman named Maggie whose son is getting sent to Iraq. Also there was a local news team preparing to do a live feed to their morning show. The former PR girl in me wanted to find the organizers (who hadn’t bothered to show up), smack them hard, and then crawl into a hole in the ground. Finally, one organizer did show up to drop off the sound system, which we wound up taking to Crawford because we were the only ones there. The live feed was kind of a bust, but the organizer and myself did taped interviews that were used in a later broadcast. And no, I’m not telling you where to find the clip.**

The drive up to Crawford was uneventful; we only got turned around once, which is amazing for me and which I blame on Texas’s inability to put up proper signage on its roads.

The action in Crawford started around 11.00 a.m. or so, when shuttles began bringing people from the vigil site to the rally site and cars began filling the parking lot. People were coming from all over the States: Oregon, California, New Mexico, Vermont, Virginia, Georgia, Ohio, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma---and those are just the states that I encountered.

The rally was held in a small park near the center of town and down the road from the Crawford Peace House. By the time the program started, at least 300 people were gathered and we had run out of parking spaces. Not a bad turn out for a day on which temperatures were approaching 100 and the humidity was pushing the heat index above that.

The rally itself consisted of speakers from Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families for Peace, Iraqi Veterans Against the War, the Crawford Peace House, and Code Pink. It moved surprisingly quickly; no diatribes, no attempts to rally the crowd into silly chants.

Across the street and down a little bit were about two dozen Bush supporters staging a counter-protest, but there wasn’t any confrontation and everyone was respectful of one another. Except for one redneck yahoo who drove his truck up and down the street in front of the park, waving a ginormous flag and playing bad country music. Is there anyone who really likes “I’m Proud to Be An American”?

After the rally, we went back to our cars and caravanned to Camp Casey, named in honor of Cindy Sheehan’s son who died in combat in Iraq. We were fortunate to be toward the front of the caravan, so we got there quickly, parked, and walked about a quarter mile down to the camp. Camp Casey is really in the middle of nowhere. It’s just ranch fields as far as you can see. So I’m not quite sure why the locals are claiming it’s such a disturbance. Who are they disturbing? The crows?

Along the side of the road were the crosses, Stars of David, and whatever that Muslim symbol is called, with the names of fallen troops on them. The camp itself is a bunch of pup tents along the side of the road, tables for the various groups involved in the effort (see above), cars, and a mini-grocer that is supplying food and water to those camped out and the protesters who come to visit. It kind of had the feel of a really disorganized town fair or a really big family reunion.

The cops tried their best to keep us off the roads and any private property and occasionally made pronouncements about where we could stand or how to park our cars. At first there were only about three or four officers there and I think they were feeling a little overwhelmed by us. Eventually nearly a dozen more police cars showed up.

We did get to see Cindy---at one point I was standing two people down from her---but she was constantly being bombarded with phone calls and cameras and people wanted to say hello or share their stories, so I didn’t even try to say anything to her. Besides, all I would have said to her is “Great work! We support you!” and I think she figured that one out from the huge crowd gathered.

After about twenty minutes at the camp, we were ready to go, but then we looked back at the road and the caravan of cars was still stretched several miles back. The road was rather narrow---and made even more so by the cars lined up on both sides of it---so we decided wait until everyone had arrived. That took about another twenty minutes or so. I lost count of the cars somewhere around 100---and that was only those in the caravan, not those already at the camp.

Best estimate of number of people at Camp Casey: between 700 and 800. I tried to find someone who was in charge and keeping track of these things. But surprise, surprise: No one was really in charge or bothering to keep any kinds of statistics. My type-A personality was in hyperoverdrive at the chaos.

So that’s the report from there.

In other news, last night I went with several coworkers to a “candlelight” vigil on a pedestrian bridge near downtown Austin (the wind was too strong for most of the candles to stay lit for more than minute or two). The Statesman is reporting that between 300 and 500 people were there; I’m putting it at closer to 700. The crowd was just enormous. Again, everyone was very positive and peaceful, yet also very determined that this war has to end. Once the sun had gone most of the way down, we attempted to light our candles and processed down a spiral ramp at the end of the bridge, which made a beautiful picture---all these people quietly walking with their candles and signs and flags.

This time, no Bush supporters were around, and the only disturbance were some bikers and runners who need to get over themselves.

Pictures of Crawford are here; I’ll post pictures from the vigil soon.

And I know this went kind of long---longer than I had planned---but at least I left out all the “why the progressive movement is screwing itself” analysis.

* Add to the reasons why I should never have children: It’s just too hard when your little one is sick. I think I’m more upset about Rowen being sick than she is. But every time I hear that hacking cough, I just cringe for her.

** I think Modam may have found the clip, which would explain his disappearance. Really, I don’t look that hideous in person! Or when I’ve gone to the trouble to shower, apply make up, and comb my hair.


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