At 7:00 am the Food Not Bombs toll free number rang and it was Casey's mother Cindy Sheehan asked me about getting food to the vigil outside Bush's summer home in Crawford, Texas. That morning I emailed the Food Not Bombs list and chapters near Crawford asking them if they could take food to the protest of Cindy Sheehan who was camping in a ditch waiting for Bush to talk with her about her son Casey's death in Iraq. Minutes later Judy from San Antonio Food Not Bombs called to help. That evening Houston Food Not Bombs arrived with potatoes and feed everyone at the Crawford Peace House.
Lee started calling grocery stores in Tucson requesting donations of food. She organized a chart of food pickups and contact people. Brendan, Buddy and Annie Spell called to tell us the food never made it from the Peace House to the vigil. They agreed to post a request for donations on 200 websites and blogs. I updated www.foodnotbombs.net asking volunteers to join us in Crawford. One, two and five-dollar donations flooded in. The first food pickup filled my truck so it was clear we would need to take the Food Not Bombs bus. We put out the word in Tucson that we had space on the bus to take people to Camp Casey. The calls came in and on Wednesday we loaded the food and cooking equipment drove to Speedway and Stone to meet our passengers. People whom couldn't go brought us food and gas money. We drove to Benson and picked up more passengers and 24 hours later we arrived at the Peace House in Crawford. A young woman in charge told us that the camp was moving and they needed help setting up the new kitchen. We drove to the new site and were shocked to see a circus tent, generators and a trailer. The bus passengers gasped. The tent was miles away from the entrance to Bush's ranch. We turned around and returned to the original Camp Casey. As we arrived the people cheered. The Spells hugged me and showed us where to set up. We unloaded the bus and set up a kitchen. Traffic coordinators told me to move the bus and as I drove away a man run up yelling that I had ruined everything by setting up the kitchen at the original site. I explained that we would be happy to move when the campers went to the new camp. I rushed off to buy more propane, food and cooking equipment in Waco.
The man who was angry about the location of our kitchen greeted me at the Peace House yelling that I had ruined the plan to move the camp. He told me I was banned from the Peace House. I was busy so I picked up the equipment I needed and returned to Camp Casey. Lee had everything under control in the kitchen and was already serving dinner. Buddy helped me park the bus. We had arrived.
Lee was up early making coffee and fried potatoes. The protesters were happy eating breakfast and telling us about their time in the ditch. It was clear that no one thought it was a good idea to move to the new site. It was the typical free speech zone designed to put the vigil out of sight and out of mind. The campers had no part in the plan to move. Hours before we arrived the campers did a sit-in to protest the move. That day as we gathered food in Waco and cook meals for the protesters some people came to pull up the crosses. After some conversation they agreed to get more crosses for the circus tent. Another man yelled at me to remove the Food Not Bombs literature table. For two days he yelled at me that we needed to have protein claiming rice and beans was not protein. He was quoted in the Washington Post saying our food was no good. That was not the opinion of the rest of the camp. Now growing to hundreds of people mealtime was a celebration. Mothers who lost their children in Iraq shared their stories. Veterans told us about what they saw in war. We talked about Bush's war crimes and the effort to hide Camp Casey.
As the days passed the positive community atmosphere grew. There was a wedding, prayer services and a warm feeling of love. The Veterans for Peace Bus joined us so we finally had Internet access. They showed their movie about Cindy's first day at Camp Casey. This was a very moving protest. After dinner people would go to the circus tent to hear Joan Baez sing. I helped keep the kitchen going at both locations. When Cindy returned I had the honor of getting her first meal. Every morning I went to Waco with Archie who was a vet from Missouri who had been to Iraq and Cuba. We bought cases of produce at the Heart of Texas warehouse on Dallas Street. We delivered the food to both camps before lunch. One team of volunteers cooked at each camp. Many told us that we had saved the protest. They said many people were planning to leave because there was no food. We were honored that Food Not Bombs could play a big roll in supporting such a powerful protest for peace.
One main lesson we learned is that our movement must work hard to build a democratic process. Many activists were not allowed to participate in the decisions. A small group of self appointed leaders almost shut down one of America's most significant protests. It's clear that if we had meeting where everyone was invited to add their ideas we would have had a more united and effective action. This is another example of why Food Not Bombs uses consensus to promote democracy. These same self-appointed leaders have a history of disrupting large protests. The movement may need to take a hard look at why we let our actions be determined by people who don't have our best interests in mind.