Right-wing war apologists salivating over Cindy Sheehan's 5-acre protest site in Crawford, Texas, had their hopes dashed last weekend when Del Mar resident Bree Walker handed the fatigued anti-war activist $87,000 for the land.
Since Sheehan announced she was stepping down as the face of the anti-war movement and would likely post the property on eBay, members of the conservative group Move America Forward had been eyeing Camp Casey, named for Sheehan's son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, killed in Baghdad in 2004.
Though Sheehan's sister, Dede Miller, said it would be a 'cold day in hell' before the land was sold to the conservative group, they might have easily obtained it through the online auction or a middleman.
The politically progressive Walker, a former TV news anchor who hosts a Saturday talk show on Los Angeles' Air America affiliate KTLK-AM 1150, heard about the group's plans and contacted Sheehan, an occasional guest on her show.
'I cashed out my corporate stocks and jumped into the peace movement,' Walker told CityBeat this week. 'I thought about what [Camp Casey] was likely to become-a forgotten piece of a legacy-so, my politics being what they are, there was my call to arms, whether I wanted it or not.'
Walker is currently searching for an assistant to help her field phone calls and e-mail while she ponders her next move.
'It is overwhelming,' Walker said. 'I don't have an assistant, and I didn't hire a public-relations firm. This is as grassroots as it gets. I've got a cell phone and a computer, and I'm just reaching out. I trust the karma gods will protect me and that I'll earn my stripes as a resister and an activist as I go along.'
One of the final straws that led to Sheehan's departure from the movement was the Democrats' vote to continue funding the war, Walker said. 'She was pretty discouraged by that.'
Sheehan purchased the property for $52,000 in 2004 with insurance money she received after her son was killed. The additional $25,000 Walker paid Sheehan covered improvements such as gravel roads, fences, generators, gardens and Internet connections. Walker estimates she'll spend an additional $1,500 a month to keep Camp Casey maintained and accessible to anti-war protestors.
Sheehan is scheduled to hand the deed to Walker at Camp Casey in July, during her 50th birthday party there. Walker will visit the site for the first time on July 6 with her children, Andrea Walker, 18, and Aaron Lampley, 15, son of HBO boxing commentator Jim Lampley.
'They're both very curious to see where this goes and excited to be part of it,'Walker said. '[We'll] see if we can grow a couple of progressive activists in the family.'
Walker plans to charter a bus for the trip to Crawford, to include veterans and military personnel opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq.
While the nearly 800 residents of Crawford are largely pro-Bush, Walker said she plans to be as staunch as Sheehan in her anti-war resolve-if not more so.
'I'm not about to back down on the anti-war protesting,' Walker said. 'While Bush is in the White House and there in Crawford on his ranch, we have to continue being ever more vocal, as it appears that we're getting ready to occupy in Iran, as well. This imperialist empire building in the name of corporatism and big oil needs to be protested with a very vocal voice.'
Move America Forward chair Melanie Morgan had boasted of the group's acquisition plans on her conservative San Francisco radio show, Walker said.
'They claimed they want to build a monument to the fallen soldiers,'she said, 'but when you check out who they are, it's just a pro-Iraq-invasion group.'
Walker plans to erect her own monument on the site, honoring those killed and wounded in the Iraq war, as well as adding a playground, to build bridges with her new neighbors.
What words would Walker use if she happens to sidle up to the lame-duck decider over pie in a Crawford café?
'I'd say, ‘Mr. Bush, I'm your new neighbor. I hope that you'll join us in some of our parties.'
'I'm going to try to take an approach of friendliness like you do with any new neighbor and see where it goes. I don't expect him to welcome me. I think he'd be a lot more comfortable if he had Move America Forward in there, but that's not what he's got. He's going to have to just deal.'
For now, in anticipation of her progressive role on the range, Walker has her cowboy hat and horse at the ready.
'I know how to ride, and I know he doesn't,' she said.
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