Camp Casey Detroit

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Camp Casey Detroit--Day 3

"It's the women and only the women who will stop this war!", said William Smith as we sat together in the bright sun at Camp Casey Detroit this afternoon (Wednesday). After meeting Andrea Hackett a few hours later, the mother of a soldier who returned in January after a year in Iraq and who is likely to be deployed there again since she has four more years to serve in the National Guard, I see what he is talking about. Cindy Sheehan isn't the only military Mom whom Mr. Bush had better watch out for: Andrea Hackett is definitely someone to be reckoned with.

It was Andrea's expressed desire to go down to Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas that set in motion a l-o-n-g van trip--24 hours each way--by eight Detroiters last weekend.

The idea first came up at the weekly MECAWI (Michigan Committee Against War & Injustice) meeting last Wednesday night. By Thursday afternoon, David Sole, an indefatigable activist/organizer, had rented a van and called the eight folks who had said they'd like to go if it could be arranged. The van cost $600 and he figured gas would cost another $600. David started calling around to activist friends on Thursday and by Friday he'd collected the gas money. He figured, rightly as it's turning out, that the van rental money would come in through donations after they'd returned home.

So off they went--David and his wife Joyce, Andrea and her 16 year-old daughter Syria (sister of Tatjuana, her daughter in the military), Syria's boyfriend Tommy Carter, 2005 Barnard University graduate Isis Sushiela, Violeta Donawa, a current student at Wayne State University, and a young Detroit worker, Kyle McBee. The ones who are now known as the Crawford Eight.

They drove through the night and arrived at Camp Casey--which now has three camps and over 1000 people tenting next to Bush's ranch in Crawford--on Saturday morning at 10:30 AM. They attended a big rally that night and David managed to get Andrea on the list of speakers. Her address was carried on Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now" and David said she spoke with power and heart. Apparently many miltary mothers and fathers came up to Andrea afterwards and thanked her for saying what they wish they could have said. On Sunday afternoon the Crawford Eight got in their van and headed north toward home.

But instead of going to their homes when they hit the Detroit city limits at 1 PM on Monday, these by-now-exhausted folks drove down to Grand Circus Park in the middle of downtown and set up Camp Casey Detroit, with the intention of keeping it going 24/7 until the huge anti-war mobilization on September 24 in Washington, DC. I know that Isis, for one, didn't get home until 3 AM Tuesday morning. And she was back a few hours later after having gotten a shower and a little sleep. Other members of MECAWI, notably Jessica and Derek--both of whom have 9-5 jobs--joined the Crawford Eight down at Camp Casey Detroit on Monday and have spent every night there since. They're down there as I write this, sleeping in sleeping bags on lawn chairs. The tents that were set up on Monday only lasted seven hours before the police made them take them down.

So now Camp Casey Detroit is a couple of tables, some folding and lawn chairs, two coolers with signs duct-taped to them and water bottles staying chilled on ice when it doesn't melt (as it did in today's hot sun), assorted bags full of snacks, and anti-war signs for rallies like we had tonight. The church across the street, Central United Methodist, has been Detroit's peace church for decades, so, when the church is open, their bathrooms are avalable for our use. And people have been generous about bringing food for lunches and dinners.

A military Mom who had seen Camp Casey Detroit on Monday night's TV news, brought down ice and water for the camp on Tuesday. And yesterday morning, a man who has a restaurant up the street stopped by and asked how many people are usually there. David said, around six. So at noon, this man returned with lunch and drinks for six.

When I got to Camp Casey Detroit about 2 PM this afternoon, Abayomi Azikiwe, a highly respected independent journalist and longtime activist, was there with William Smith, William's daughter Isis, and Syria Hackett's boyfriend Tommy. By 3:30 PM, Pat Lent and Jim Grimm (Veterans For Peace) had joined us, and David Sole and Kevin Carey (Workers World) showed up about 4 PM. Several men from the neighborhood, among them Will and James, have been helping out too. While I was there, Will even gave out fliers about Camp Casey Detroit to people on the buses that stopped near us. And then we had probably 40-50 people show up at tonight's rally.

One of the cool things about Camp Casey Detroit is the opportunity it gives folks to sit and talk with no sense of being rushed or having to run off someplace else. It feels lke the olden days when people just sat around and shared their stories. Now, that's what I call peace!

I heard many powerful things today while sitting around talking and at the rally, but there is one statement that I will not forget. I was interviewing Andrea Hackett, knowing I'd want to write this day up in my journal and blog. As she was getting ready to leave, I said, "Andrea, there's one more thing. As we know, George Bush has changed his reasons several times for why we went to war against Iraq. His latest is to say that we must 'finish the task' so our fallen soldiers will not have died in vain. How does that strike you?"

With fire in her eyes, Andrea replied, "Because his war was premised on lies, their lives have already been lost in vain. That's why we're trying to bring them home, so no more will die in vain."

Yes, it is the women who will stop this war.

--Patricia Lay-Dorsey


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