Peace activists occupy “Camp Casey” to demand truth about Iraq War, United States, 2005

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
The campaign lasted the duration of George W. Bush's vacation
5 August
2005
to
31 August
2005
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Crawford, Texas
Location Description: 
Outside of President George W. Bush's ranch
Goals: 
Cindy Sheehan demanded that President Bush meet with her and publicly reveal the economic motivations for the Iraq War.
 

On 4 April 2004, Casey Sheehan, an American soldier, was killed in the Iraq War. Upon hearing the news, his mother Cindy Sheehan was completely devastated and questioned the value of the war.

Based on alternative media sources, Ms. Sheehan became convinced that the war in Iraq was preplanned, and unrelated to the rationale fronted by the federal government based in weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. Ms. Sheehan proclaimed the war to be senseless, greedy and illegal. Over time, Ms. Sheehan became increasingly invested in exposing the injustice of the Iraq War and devoted her energy to anti-war activism.

During August 2005, President George W. Bush took a vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Ms. Sheehan was scheduled to give a speech at the Veterans for Peace (VFP) convention in Dallas, Texas on 5 August. In the lead-up to her speech, on 3 August 2005, Ms. Sheehan wrote an e-mail to 300 of her contacts declaring that after her speech, she would drive to Crawford and demand a meeting with the President. She described her intentions to in-person challenge Bush’s rationale for the Iraq War.

Ms. Sheehan’s sister Dede Miller promptly supported Ms. Sheehan’s plan, as did Andrea Buffa of Code Pink, Amy Branham of Gold Star Families for Peace, and many VFP members. Hadi Jawad offered the support of the Crawford Peace House. The evening of her speech in Dallas on 5 August, Ms. Sheehan declared that she would not leave Crawford until she had met with the President or until his vacation ended.

On the morning of 6 August, members of VFP, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and Amy Branham accompanied Ms. Sheehan on a bus. Dede Miller, members of CodePink, and other citizens followed in a motorcade of vehicles. Once at Crawford Peace House, more vehicles joined in the motorcade that grew to the limit defined by the sheriff.

The media was already waiting to capture the beginning of the action and Ms. Sheehan and her supporters held a press conference on a triangular parcel of land in Crawford that became known as “Camp Casey.” Ms. Sheehan showed the press a picture of her son and reiterated her goal to speak with President Bush.

Approximately 75 people then began a walk for peace towards President Bush’s ranch. Police instructed them to stay in the ditches and off the public road, which the police had barricaded from traffic. At one point, Ms. Sheehan moved too close to the road and the police ordered the marchers to stop. Ms. Sheehan then sat down and proclaimed she would not move until the president met with her. Diane Wilson of Code Pink also sat with Ms. Sheehan.

Eventually, they went back to the place where they had held the press conference to rehydrate. While there, they decided to make that area their base; Camilo Mejia named it “Camp Casey.” Seven of the marchers stayed there overnight.

Secret Service agents, Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, approached Ms. Sheehan and attempted to persuade her to change her mind, without success. As news of the occupation spread, supporters across the world lit candles in their windows to show solidarity with their action.

On the second night, approximately twenty-four people stayed at the camp, most of them activists coming from the VFP convention or friends of Ms. Sheehan. Over the course of the first week, 700 people made their way through Camp Casey.

On approximately 9 August, a neighbour ordered the protestors off Camp Casey, claiming to own the land they were occupying. The protesters did not leave.

Members of VFP then put crosses from their convention up along two sides of the triangle in memory of soldiers who had lost their lives in the war. Within days, a neighbour ran over the crosses.

Protestors expressed their determination through signs, songs, and prayer services. Another neighbour, Mr. Bubba Mattlage fired a rifle during a prayer service being held at the camp. Press interviewed Ms. Sheehan on multiple occasions. During a film shoot capturing Ms. Sheehan’s message to President Bush, the neighbor who had ordered them to leave attempted to hit protesters with her car and threatened to kill them if they did not leave.

In the middle of August Ms. Sheehan’s mother suffered a stroke in California. Ms. Sheehan returned home to care for her, with the promise of returning as soon as possible.

In the absence of Ms. Sheehan, the occupation continued. While Ms. Sheehan was away, the mothers at the camp wrote letters to Laura Bush about bringing the troops home and marched to deliver the letters at the ranch’s checkpoint.

Bubba Mattlage’s cousin Fred Mattlage offered two acres of land in close proximity to Bush’s ranch as an apology for his cousin’s actions. At that time, anti-war protestors faced immediate eviction by the sheriff and needed a new space to occupy. On 19 August, the protesters moved to Mattlage’s land, deemed “Camp Casey II.”

Despite local opposition, support grew nationally over time. Celebrities Viggo Mortensen, Joan Baez, Steve Earl, Martin Sheen, and Rosie O’Donnell, Members of Congress John Conyers, Maxine Waters, and Sheila Jackson Lee, and spiritual leaders Reverends Joseph Lowery and Al Sharpton voiced their support for Ms. Sheehan and her supporters. By 22 August, Camp Casey II housed and fed 500 people during the week and even more on the weekend.

On 26 August, 1,500 counter-protesters gathered in Crawford to support pro-war efforts. They spoke out against Ms. Sheehan and accused the anti-war message of being anti-American.

At the same time, 2,500 people gathered at Camp Casey II for an anti-war rally. Press referred to these rallies as the peaceful occupation of Crawford. The anti-war protestors gave speeches, chanted “Not One More” and played music.

On 29 August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. President Bush ended his vacation earlier than planned. On 30 August, the President made a public statement that invading Iraq was to “secure the oil fields from terrorists.”

From Ms. Sheehan’s point of view, the President’s statement confirmed her suspicions and supported her accusations. Protesters at Camp Casey II dispersed on 31 August.

Research Notes
Influences: 

Cindy Sheehan often compares the efforts of the Anti-Iraq War movement, of which Camp Casey is a part, to those of the Anti-Vietnam War movement. (1)

Camp Casey spawned the 'Bring Them Home Now' bus tour, Camp Casey III and a number of other peace camps around the country. (2)

Sources: 
Baker, Peter and Josh White. (2005, August 31). Bush Calls Iraq War Moral Equivalent of Allies; WWII Fight Against the Axis. The Washington Post. Retrieved from www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/30/AR2005083001078.html

Loven, Jennifer. (2005, August 31). Bush Gives New Reason for Iraq War: Says US must prevent oil fields from falling into hands of terrorists. The Boston Globe. Retrieved from www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2005/08/31/bush_gives_new_reason_for_iraq_war/

Sheehan, Cindy. (2006). Peace Mom: A Mother’s Journey Through Heartache to Activism. Atria Books: New York, New York.

Sheehan, Cindy, Susan and Jodie Evans. (August 9th, 2005 – August 31st, 2005). [Blog Entries]. CodePink Blogs from Crawford. Retrieved from codepinkalert.org/article.php?id=451

Additional Notes: 
Cindy Sheehan’s campaign, Camp Casey, is part of a larger Anti-Iraq War movement that began even before the troops were deployed.
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Amy Robertson, 2/4/2013