Cindy Sheehan made a return visit to the streets of New York Wednesday, joining the weekly vigil of Grandmothers Against the War outside Rockefeller Center.
In contrast to the scene in Union Square last month, when the police stormed the podium and cut off Sheehan’s mic, this time the NYPD went out of its way to be gracious to America’s leading peace mom.
Police politely urged the jostling camera crews and passing tourists to “please clear the sidewalk,” overseen by the NYPD’s top spokesperson Paul J. Browne, who said he was there to prevent any rush-hour snafus. “It’s the hometown of NBC, so it’s a big TV area,” Browne said, with a shrug.
But if the event was less a protest than a love fest between Sheehan and her elderly fans, who lined up for autographs and snapshots with the celebrity activist and plied her with heart-shaped sugar cookies, Sheehan still had plenty of fighting words for President Bush and New York’s pro-war senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, who’s widely said to be mulling a bid for the White House.
“I think that if anybody wants to run for president in 2008, then they have to come out against the war, and if they don’t then we don’t support them, whether it’s Hillary or whoever it is that’s going to run for president,” charged Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in Baghdad’s Sadr City last year.
“The last time I was here, Chuck Schumer’s aide stated to me that the senator thinks the war in Iraq was a great thing for America,” Sheehan alleged. “I don’t think the people of New York believe that. We the people have to start taking responsibility for our democracy and firing leaders who do not represent us.”
Sheehan’s challenge to Clinton and Schumer not to take their heavily antiwar base in New York for granted echoed a scathing message she posted Saturday on Michael Moore’s website, in which she termed Clinton a “political animal who believes she has to be a war hawk to keep up with the big boys.”
Saying she “will not make the mistake of supporting another pro-war Democrat for president again,” Sheehan warned Clinton she would “resist your candidacy with every bit of my power and strength unless you show us the wisdom it takes to be a truly great leader.”
That got a rise out of Rush Limbaugh, who termed Sheehan either “gutsy or stupid” for taking on the Democrats’ leading lady.
Sheehan was all smiles as she milled among the antiwar grannies, 18 of whom were arrested for trying to enlist at the Times Square Recruiting Station on Monday.
Her plans for this trip to New York are fairly low key. Besides doing press interviews, she’ll be guest hosting on Air America with Randi Rhodes on Friday at 6 p.m. and giving the keynote address at the Brooklyn Peace Fair this Saturday at 11 a.m.
But Sheehan vowed to turn up the heat by returning to the front gate of the White House as soon as the death toll of American soldiers hits 2,000 (as of Thursday, the Department of Defense reported 1,982, including the five killed Wednesday). “I’m going to deliver a speech and then I’m going to get arrested. And when I get out I’m going to go back and get arrested,” Sheehan told the Voice.
Sheehan said she now believes lobbying and marching in the streets is no longer enough and that “nonviolent civil disobedience is the way we have to go” to end the war.
“Hundreds of thousands of people were in D.C. on September 24 and the leaders still are not leading us,” Sheehan said of last month’s antiwar demo in Washington. “They’re still spouting the Republican talking points even if they’re Democrats. So what are we going to do? It’s going to have to be massive non-violent civil disobedience I believe.”
Sheehan said she and her fellow members of Gold Star Families for Peace, along with other military families and veterans, plan to hit the road again for another speaking tour in November, caravanning from the West Coast to Crawford, Texas, where they will reprise their “Camp Casey” protest over Thanksgiving weekend and demand once again that the president meet with them to explain what noble cause their loved ones were dying for.
“We’re going to invite George and Laura—and tell Laura to bring the turkey,” the peace mom quipped.