LOCAL RESIDENTS HOPE CINDY’S VISIT WILL NOT SPARK CONTROVERSY AND PROTESTS LIKE HAPPENED IN APRIL 2007
by Tom Swann, VFP
Cindy Sheehan’s bicycle tour known as “Tour de Peace” will stop in Palm Springs on Tuesday April 9. The event is free and open to the public. It will be held at 6:00 PM at Crystal Fantasy 268 N. Palm Canyon Drive.
I first met Cindy Sheehan in the spring of 2005 when she spoke at the “Eyes Wide Open” exhibit in Palm Springs. This was an exhibit of shoes from deceased Iraqi civilians and combat boots of our deceased soldiers. Cindy donated her son’s boots (Casey Sheehan) an Army Specialist who was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004. Cindy’s appearance in Palm Springs was a few months before she began the “Camp Casey” protests near the President George W. Bush ranch outside of Crawford Texas. The bike tour begins on April 4 at Casey Sheehan’s grave at Vacaville, California.
During Easter week in 2006 Tracy Turner of Palm Springs and I went to Camp Casey,Texas in solidarity with Cindy Sheehan. I spoke onstage with other peace activists like Ann Wright and Daniel Ellsberg. Later that year I became the founding Commander of the Casey Sheehan American Veterans (AMVETS) Post 19 in Rancho Mirage. Many of the state AMVETS officials were unhappy we were naming a post after Cindy Sheehan’s son. I received five obscene and harassing phone calls from people who disagreed with Cindy Sheehan. Former Palm Springs radio talk show host Marshall Gilbert added to the controversy by calling Sheehan “anti-Semitic.” Cindy Sheehan’s sister Dede Miller of Los Angeles visited the desert in May 2006 and did a KMIR TV-6 interview about the formation of the Casey Sheehan AMVETS Post. The Desert Sun reported on this controversy.
In 2007 the Casey Sheehan AMVETS Post and Veterans For Peace planned to hold two events with Cindy Sheehan. One event was to be held at the Episcopal Church in Palm Springs. Father Andrew Green approved the event but when the story appeared in the Desert Sun members of the church’s parish council objected to hosting Cindy. Father Green issued a press release to the Desert Sun indicating the church had changed its mind and would not host the Sheehan speech.
Cathedral City council member Greg Pettis arranged that Cindy would speak in the Cathedral City council chambers. Mayor Kathy De Rosa and other council members became upset and this was reported in the Desert Sun. A reception to raise funds for an educational scholarship was planned for a private home in Palm Desert. Andy Grow, a Navy Vietnam Veteran who supported the Iraq War felt that Cindy’s anti-war activities were harming the morale of U.S. troops. Grow organized a pro-war motorcycle veterans club known as “Gathering of Eagles” to park near the private home in protest. The day before this event Cindy became sick from food poisoning and had to cancel her visit to the Coachella Valley. The reception was held anyway and the motorcycle protesters were present but did not cause a disturbance since Sheriff deputies were at the scene. The Casey Sheehan AMVETS Post lasted three years but disbanded because of the lack of support from the AMVETS state officers.
Now we are preparing for Cindy Sheehan to come to Palm Springs. We hope this visit on April 9 will not be as controversial as her planned visit in 2007. Recently I mentioned that Cindy was coming to Palm Springs at a Christian men’s retreat in Palm Desert. One of the participants remarked that Cindy was “evil.” I have attended Good Friday and Easter services with Cindy at Camp Casey. Cindy was a Catholic church youth minister for eight years. Casey was an altar server at the Palm Sunday Catholic Mass at his Army base on the same day he was killed in an ambush. I feel Cindy is very spiritual. Recently she wrote to me about the U.S. drone attacks overseas and asked “Who would Jesus bomb”?
Ten years after the start of the Iraq War we are learning that the Bush administration lied about Iraq having Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Sheehan believes the Iraq War was immoral and illegal. She has spoken truth to power. In polls the majority of Americans believe the Iraq War was a mistake so Cindy has been vindicated. I feel Cindy is a very important person that is serving God who is Love. I agree with Cindy and I invite her supporters to attend our program on April 9. For more information you can call me at (760) 324-5670 or write to me at email@example.com
Cindy Sheehan explains the “Tour de Peace” in the following article.
Why We’re Bicycling Through Palm Springs on Our Way From Coast to Coast by Cindy Sheehan
We often hear that those who protested abuses of power by President George W. Bush censor such criticisms of Obama. And with many people that’s true; some of them openly admit as much.
But those who have not compromised their activism, those who oppose wars and civil liberties violations today, just as they did several years ago, do exist even if they don’t always have a microphone. A cross-country event this spring is aimed at amplifying their voices.
The Tour de Peace is a bicycle ride from the Vacaville, California, grave of Casey Sheehan (killed in Iraq in 2004) to Washington, D.C. Much of the ride follows the historic Route 66, a road that John Steinbeck called the Mother Road in his novel The Grapes of Wrath.
We’re riding because, while we may have a Nobel peace prize laureate in the White House, we do not have peace. We have expanded presidential war powers, a new type of war fought with flying robots, and biweekly meetings in the White House to check names off a “kill list.” We have expanded powers of warrantless spying, imprisonment without trial, and retribution against whistleblowers.
We objected to these practices when George W. Bush was president; why shouldn’t we object now?
The U.S. military presence abroad is expanding into new nations with troops and drones. Military spending is draining our economy dry, as every dollar spent on it could have produced more jobs if spent more wisely, such as on education, infrastructure, or green energy. Is $170 billion a year for foreign bases among the priorities of people in Palm Springs and across the country?
We talk about a war in Afghanistan as if it’s ending, while planning to lengthen its duration from 11 years to 13. Most wars didn’t take 2 years from start to finish. Our new Secretary of State once asked how you could ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam. We don’t hear enough people asking such questions about Afghanistan.
We’re riding because, while we have a president who admits that climate change exists, we still have a president and a Congress that work to exacerbate rather than to alleviate it. Fossil fuel corporations are given massive subsidies, and carbon is still not taxed. We’re riding for serious sustainable policies, and for government accountability to the people.
We hope to meet many new and old friends along the way, to talk to them about their concerns, and to carry those concerns with us to Washington. “This is the beginning,” Steinbeck wrote, “from ‘I’ to ‘we’. If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into ‘I’, and cuts you off forever from the ‘we’.”
That pessimistic analysis looks ever more accurate, as wealth and power grow ever more concentrated. But we who care about our future together will work to build a broad nonviolent movement among those who do understand the fundamental injustice of a government that does not answer to its people, even while assaulting other people abroad in the name of democracy.
We are extending an open invitation to those who would like to join the Tour de Peace (TourDePeace.org) for all or part of the route. We plan to arrive at Arlington National Cemetery on July 3rd and to proceed from there to the White House.
Admirable bike rides are often held to oppose terrible diseases. We believe that war, plutocracy, and environmental destruction are diseases with the potential to turn fatal. Ride with us, or talk with us when we stop for a breather in Palm Springs.
Cindy Sheehan’s son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004. In 2005 she began a widely-reported protest at then President Bush’s home in Crawford, Texas.