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Richmond IndyMedia Live! Every Tuesday, 12:30 - 1PM on 97.3 WRIR LP-FM, and streaming online from wrir.org!

LOCAL News :: Peace & War

"Fan Residents Backing Cindy" stand vigil on the Boulevard

On an otherwise quiet and humid night in the Fan, almost 100 people came together to support Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside President's Bush's Crawford Texas ranch. Cindy, whose son was killed while serving in the Iraq war, has attracted growing attention for her bold anti-war protest. Nearly two weeks into her public vigil, she urged supporters around the country to hold anti-war vigils in their home towns. The call was passed around by Moveon.org.
On an otherwise quiet and humid night in the Fan, almost 100 people came together to support Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside President's Bush's Crawford Texas ranch. Cindy, whose 24-year-old son Casey was killed while serving in the Iraq war, has attracted growing attention for her bold anti-war protest. Nearly two weeks into her public vigil, she urged supporters around the country to hold anti-war vigils in their home towns "before one more mother's child is lost." The call was passed around by Moveon.org and an extimated 1700 vigils were quickly scheduled with more than 50,000 registered to attend.

At 7:30 pm on Wednesday August 17th, people started showing up on the Boulevard outside the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. They walked from their Fan homes, biked from the West End, and drove from Downtown lofts. The one thing they all had in common was Horace W. Wooldridge, Fan resident and ex-Director of Admissions for VCU.

At 11pm on the previous night, Horace was looking at the Moveon.org website, promted by one of their mass emails. He decided to heed Cindy's call after he had seen the broken crosses and flags that had been mowed down by a Bush-supporting driver of a pickup truck in Crawford, Texas. "That's when I knew it was time to stand up," says Horace. However, both of the Richmond vigil options on MoveOn's website were full. One of the vigils was planned as a 12 person assembly on a Fan resident's porch and the other was restricted to 50 people to be held in someone's front yard in Brandermill, "in front of our garden" as the event was described on the website.

So, Horace added another suggestion for vigil locations, calling his "Fan Residents Backing Cindy." He set the limit at 100 people because he didn't want to be responsible for a mob of people. "I hope what we're doing is legal," he wrote in an email. "I can't seem to find anyone at the City Hall that knows whether or not I need a permit. I have called city hall, the police, and the VA Museum and left messages. No response from anyone. I'll just scream the right to gather."

The spot that Horace chose was the same that was used by Richmond Women in Black at the start of the 2nd Iraq war over three years ago. Many in attendance had questions about the group. Who was it? What happened to the gathering? Those questions went unanswered although rebuilding the anti-war movement was a popular conversation topic.

By 7:38 over 50 people were milling around, lighting candles and sitting on the steps of the museum near the corner of Grove and Boulevard. Horace greeted people and handed out the modest supplies he'd picked up, but mostly left the vigilers to their own devices. The event was planned as a silent vigil, but that didn't stop people from getting to know each other and chewing the proverbial fat. Most agreed that Americans have spent too long in silent opposition to the ongoing occupation of Iraq.

One couple came 12 miles to attend the protest. Their son, who is still serving in the Army Reserves, was wounded by a roadside bomb a year ago. Peggy is worried about being too vocal about her feelings on the war because of the Bush administration's reputation for retribution. "I'm not worried about me. I'm worried about my son," said Peggy. "I don't want anything else to happen to him." Her husband says 40% of the troops American troops in Iraq are reservists. "And they keep sending the same troops back" says Peggy. They both believe that the war cannot go on much longer without a draft.

Steve, a broad shouldered lanky guy with tattoos was sitting off by himself. A Californian who'd served in the Navy, he got out of the service three years ago and found himself in Virginia Beach. Just before his release, he did a cruise to the gulf at the start of the second US invasion of Iraq. When asked how it feels to be a military veteran while opposing the war, Steve responded, "It disturbs me that there are people out there trying to speak for all soldiers and vets. I consider it my duty to correct the misconception that we're all in favor of this war."

Steve said he was also compelled by Mike Miloy's commentaries on Air America, which he listens to over the web. "Mike played an excerpt of Rush Limbaugh saying that there were really only 100 people in America who oppose the war and that he was sick of all the coverage they're getting." Steve seemed more than happy to help prove Rush wrong and send him running for the Vikaden.

As 8pm came and went, the crowd had swelled to nearly 100 and some spilled out onto the Boulevard median. Four carried signs that spelled out "Bush Meet With Cindy." Another man's sign read "War is Terrorism." For the most part, everyone stayed put on the sidewalk, engrossed in conversation and generally feeling good about this effort at rekindling anti-war activism.

Horace stood in the middle surveying it all as NBC12 interviewed vigilers. I asked him if he thought the crowd was looking for some sort of planned out order of service or marching orders. "I think this was all that needed to happen today, he replied. "Cindy will let us know what she sees for a next step."

I asked another woman how she'd know when the event was over and it was time to leave. She replied looking at her hands, "I'm just going to wait until my candle burns down."

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If you have pictures from this event, please post them here.

If you want to participate in anti-war organizing in Richmond, check out the 25 year old peace group www.rpec.org to find out about local resources, look under the "links" section of this website, and/or discuss your ideas by posting a comment to this article. In other words, "Don't mourn. Organize."
 
 


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