The fallen soldier's mother Cindy Sheehan whose August vigil near President George W. Bush's ranch reinvigorated the anti-war movement returned to Texas on Thursday night to resume her protest.
Sheehan, who led the 26-day vigil in August, asked protesters to return this week as Bush spends Thanksgiving at his ranch. But a family emergency in California kept her away until Thursday.
On Thursday afternoon, more than 100 war protesters ate a traditional Iraqi meal fish, lentils, Middle Eastern bread, rice with almonds and a salad of parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers and bulgur wheat. They said they wanted to call attention to 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."
Some said they didn't want to spend Thanksgiving anywhere but a grassy lot about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from Bush's ranch, eating the simple Iraqi meal with fellow demonstrators they consider their new family.
A few miles (kilometers) away in a field beside the main road leading to Bush's ranch, a lone Bush supporter set up camp Thursday with a tent and signs reading: "A Noble Cause." The signs showed pictures of smiling Iraqi children.
Akef Tayem, who participated in pro-Bush rallies in Crawford this summer, said he returned because he felt Bush was under pressure to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. But Tayem said that would be a mistake because Iraqis want democracy and appreciate what the U.S. is doing, especially the ousting of Saddam Hussein.
The war protesters' camp this week is at the same one acre (0.4-hectare) 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 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, released on personal recognizance bonds and ordered to appear in court in January.
"We're here to put pressure on President Bush, right across the way here, to stop this war," said one of those arrested, 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", reported AP. P.T.