'Anti-war Mom' arrested outside White House
Cindy Sheehan, the California mother who became a leader of the anti-war movement after her son died in Iraq, was arrested Monday along with hundreds of others protesting outside the White House.
The protesters later sat down on the pedestrian walkway in front of the White House — knowing they would be arrested — and began singing and chanting "Stop the war now!"
Police warned them three times that they were breaking the law by failing to move along, then began making arrests. One man climbed over the White House fence and was quickly subdued by Secret Service agents.
Sheehan, 48, was the first taken into custody. She smiled as she was carried to the curb, then stood up and walked to a police vehicle as protesters chanted, "The whole world is watching."
"It's an honor to be arrested with this group of people," said Gary Handschumacher, 58, of Crawford, Colo., who was waiting for police to arrest him.
Sgt. Scott Fear, spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, said about 370 protesters were arrested over four and a half hours. All but one were charged with demonstrating without a permit, a misdemeanor. One person faced a charge of crossing a police line.
Sheehan's 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed last year in an ambush in Sadr City, Iraq. She attracted worldwide attention last month with her 26-day vigil outside Bush's Texas ranch.
Monday's demonstration was part of a broader anti-war effort on Capitol Hill organized by United for Peace and Justice, an umbrella group. Representatives from anti-war groups met Monday with members of Congress to urge them to work to end the war and to bring the troops home.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush is "very much aware" of the protesters and "recognizes that there are differences of opinion" on Iraq.
"It's the right of the American people to peacefully express their views. And that's what you're seeing here in Washington, D.C.," McClellan said. "They're well-intentioned, but the president strongly believes that withdrawing ... would make us less safe and make the world more dangerous."
The protest Monday followed a massive demonstration Saturday that drew a crowd of 100,000 or more, the largest such gathering in the capital since the war began in March 2003.
On Sunday, a rally supporting the war drew about 500 people. Speakers included veterans of World War II and the war in Iraq, as well as family members of soldiers killed in Iraq.
"I would like to say to Cindy Sheehan and her supporters: Don't be a group of unthinking lemmings," said Mitzy Kenny of Ridgeley, W.Va., whose husband died in Iraq last year. She said the anti-war demonstrations "can affect the war in a really negative way. It gives the enemy hope."