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Crawford Peace House
Despite talk about withdrawing troops from Iraq and the upcoming 2008 presidential election, anti-war protesters in Crawford say they will remain in the community even after Bush is no longer in office.
Many tourists and local residents, however, would rather see them go.
The Crawford Peace House, an anti-war activist organization based in a residential property, and Camp Casey, an encampment named for Iraq war casualty Casey Sheehan, will continue their long-term vigil.
Members say they won’t stop even if the soldiers come home.
Ted Eisener, a Canadian tourist who traveled to Crawford to see the “Western White House,” said he supports the soldiers’ mission in Iraq and believes the town would be better off without the anti-war demonstrators.
“I think they are wasting their time, so it’ll probably be a positive thing when they leave,” he said.
Several residents echo Eisener’s statements, including a clerk named Karen at The Yellow Rose, a corner store with a large selection of Bush souvenirs.
“I imagine most people here think it would be good for everything to calm down,” she said.
The Crawford Peace House opened its doors in 2003 when John Wolf, affiliated with the Dallas Peace Center, bought a two-bedroom, one-bathroom white-clapboard house across the railroad tracks leading from downtown Crawford. He designated the property a place for activists to gather in Bush’s adopted hometown.
Peace House Director Kay Lucas hasn’t made any plans to change her strategy when the presidency changes hands. She believes the place is an important example of what grass-roots activism can accomplish.
“I think that the Peace House should stay because it is an historic symbol, and if it were to disappear, then the country would lose a document that says that a small group of people can make a difference,” she said.
Lucas suggests other people who are disillusioned with the war should follow the Crawford example.
“I think that there ought to be peace houses popping up all over this country, and all over the world for that matter,” she said. “It is our duty as citizens to get involved.”
Camp Casey residents consider their organization a separate entity from the Crawford Peace House, but both are under the leadership of Cindy Sheehan, protesting mother of the deceased soldier. Campers have made Crawford their second home and also have resolved to remain in town following the elections.
Musician Jesse Dyen from Oakland, Calif., travels to the location regularly to perform songs such as his single “Sons and Daughters.” He said the protest group has no intention of leaving.
“Camp Casey is still going to be trying to end the war,” he said. “That’s really what it is about, regardless of who the president is.”
Cindy Sheehan’s self-described boyfriend of two years, Jerry Fonseca, said the organization’s work has just begun.
“Camp Casey will be here forever,” he said. “On Memorial Day weekend, we are going to open for the dedication of the first permanent building that will be going up here.”
Fonseca said Sheehan is consulting an architect about plans to build a lodge with a common area, an office, showers, bathrooms, a kitchen, TV room, foosball tables, an expanded driveway, a treehouse and a non-denominational chapel on its premises. Sheehan intends to create a permanent center to counsel soldiers returning from war and to try to stop others from enlisting.
“Part of our mission is preventative measures,” Fonseca said. “We certainly encourage people not to join and those who are in the service to quit fighting in an illegal and immoral war.”
On another side of town, Vietnam veteran and resident Rodney Kennedy said when Bush bought his ranch near Crawford, the community split into two distinct factions.
“Anybody who comes to the caf? or the shop across the street is for the troops and pro-Bush. The Peace House and Camp Casey are against Bush and against the war, so it has actually separated the town in the way the people here feel.”
Kennedy said he thinks the town would be more cohesive if the demonstrators left. He disagrees with the anti-war protesters’ attempts to dissuade youth from joining the armed forces, because he doesn’t understand their objections to enlisting in an all-volunteer military.
“They have their own way of thinking,” he said. “As long as the military doesn’t have a draft, anyone in the military joined of their own free will,” he said. “Anyone who joins now knows that they are going to war. This is nothing new.”
As WND reported last week, the Crawford Peace House has been accused of mismanaging tens of thousands of dollars in donations by an insurgent member who seized legal control of the group’s name and is calling for a state investigation.
Sara L. Oliver, who left the group in 2005 following a dispute surrounding her efforts to secure grant funding for the organization, and other disaffected members have gone public with their suspicions and accusations against the Peace House. They are calling for an official investigation into why the group has only $14,700 in its bank account. Tens of thousands in donations, collected during Sheehan’s 2005 anti-war protest at the Crawford site, are unaccounted for, Oliver claims.