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    Candlelight vigils across US call for end to Iraq War

2005-08-19 05:57

CRAWFORD, the United States: Hundreds of candlelight vigils calling for an end to the war in Iraq lit up the night, part of a national effort spurred by one mother's anti-war demonstration near President George W. Bush's ranch.

The Wednesday vigils were urged by Cindy Sheehan, who has become the icon of the anti-war movement since she started a protest on August 6 in memory of her son Casey, who died in Iraq last year.

Sheehan says she will remain outside the president's ranch until he meets with her and other grieving families, or until his month-long vacation ends.

Bush has said he sympathizes with Sheehan but has made no indication he will meet with her. Two top Bush administration officials talked to Sheehan the day she started her camp, and she and other families had met with Bush shortly after her son's death.

More than 1,600 vigils were planned on Wednesday from coast to coast by liberal advocacy groups Political Action, TrueMajority and Democracy for America. A large vigil was also planned in Paris.

As the sun set in Crawford, about 200 protesters lit candles and gathered around a wooden, flag-draped coffin at Sheehan's growing camp, about 1.5 kilometres from the Bush ranch.

"For the more than 1,800 who have come home this way in flag-draped coffins, each one... was a son or a daughter, not cannon fodder to be used so recklessly," Sheehan told the crowd, which then sang "Amazing Grace."

Near Philadelphia's Independence Hall, a few hundred people strained to hear the parent of another soldier killed in Iraq. "This war must stop," said Al Zappala, 65, whose 30-year-old son, Sergeant Sherwood Baker, died in an explosion in Baghdad in April 2004.

Karen Braz, 50, held a pink votive cup and a sign reading "Moms for Peace" as she stood shoulder-to-shoulder with about 150 other people outside the New Hampshire statehouse in Concord.

"My son is 26. It could've been him," she said

In Cincinnati's Fountain Square, some 200 people sang "Give Peace A Chance" and lined one side of the square with signs, drawing honks of support from some passing motorists.

At a vigil in Charleston, West Virginia, a banner bearing the name, age, rank, hometown and date of death of all Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan was unrolled stretching the length of a city block.

"Our pastors and preachers need to hear from us," said one of the speakers in Charleston, Mary Ellen O'Farrell. "Ask your pastor to preach it from the pulpit. This war does not meet the criteria for a just war."

Along with candles and flags, some of the 300 people who gathered at a park in Nashville, Tennessee, brought banners of support for Sheehan. One read: "Thank you for your courage Cindy."

Marie Evans, standing on the steps of the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, said the rallies and candlelight vigils were a chance for those opposing the war to let their voices be heard.

In Hawaii, Kalihi Valley resident Charmaine Crockett invited scores of people to her hilltop house to light candles in sympathy for Sheehan. "I'm very moved by one person making a difference," Crockett said. "This isn't an anti-war protest. The beauty of it lies in its silence."

Actor Richard Dreyfuss attended a vigil in the Studio City area of Los Angeles with his son and about 500 others.

"Cindy Sheehan is making a starting point with the questions she is asking and it's not unpatriotic to ask them," Dreyfuss said. "It's actually a higher form of patriotism."

(China Daily 08/19/2005 page7)


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