More than 100 war protesters say they didn't want to spend Thanksgiving anywhere but a grassy lot about a mile (1.6 kilometer) from President George W. Bush's ranch, eating a simple Iraqi meal with fellow demonstrators they consider their new family.
"We'd be eating turkey and watching football at home, but this war needs to be stopped," Giulia Mannarino of Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania, said Thursday while eating under a large tent with her husband.
Many of the protesters met here for the first time in August during a 26-day vigil led by Cindy Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son died in Iraq last year. Sheehan was to return to Crawford on Thursday night. She missed protest activities earlier in the week because of a family emergency in California.
The demonstrators said they ate a traditional Iraqi meal on Thursday salmon, lentils, traditional Middle Eastern bread, rice with almonds and a salad of parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers and bulgur wheat because they wanted to highlight the innocent Iraqi victims in addition to the more than 2,100 U.S. soldiers killed since the war began in March 2003.
"It's significant because the people of Iraq are suffering under our occupation, and for people in America it's business as usual stuffing themselves on fat turkeys," said Tammara Rosenleaf, whose husband is an Army soldier to be deployed in a few weeks. "We in good conscience cannot behave that way while our troops are over there."
Because Bush is spending Thanksgiving at his ranch, the protesters also decided to return to Crawford this week. "We're here to put pressure on President Bush, right across the way here, to stop this war," said Ann Wright, who resigned her post as a senior diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia in 2003 in protest of the war with Iraq. "It's time for us to give thanks for the fact that we can make a difference."
The protesters' camp this week is at the same 1-acre private lot that a landowner let them use in August. Sheehan first set up camp Aug. 6 in ditches off the main road leading to Bush's ranch, refusing to leave until he talked to her or ended his ranch vacation. Some demonstrators remained on the roadside even after the larger camp was set up on the nearby private lot.
On Wednesday, 12 protesters, including Wright, were arrested after setting up camp at Sheehan's original makeshift site, defying two recently enacted county bans on roadside camping and parking.
They were charged with two misdemeanors each carrying a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. They were released on personal recognizance bonds and ordered to appear in court in January, AP reports. P.T.