Marc Ash: From Camp Crawford To The Streets Of DC
My Chat with Scott Galindez
By Marc Ash
t r u t h o u t | Interview
Monday 03 October 2005
An interview with TO managing editor Scott Galindez about his coverage of the events at Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas, and the migration of what began there to the massive anti-war demonstration in Washington, DC, on September 24th and beyond.
Marc Ash: Scott, thanks for spending a little time with the readers to share your observations and experiences. Just to give the readers a little background on you, you're no rookie when it comes to political actions. You've spent years working with grass roots organizations, and you are a veteran of numerous actions over the years. In fact, Father Philip Berrigan was your mentor, was he not?
Scott Galindez: Well, one of ... I met Phil Berrigan through a couple of others, William Thomas (Thomas), who has been vigiling in front of the White House against Nuclear Weapons since 1981, and the late Mitch Snyder, who I lived in community with for close to a year, working to end homelessness ...
Thomas was the first, along with his wife, Ellen. They were there when I passed through Lafayette Park one day, across the street from the White House. One of the other vigilers shouted out that I was too closed-minded to listen. He struck a nerve, and I stopped. While listening to their stories, I witnessed the Park Police ticketing the other vigilers and homeless people in the park for camping. It was that night that I became an activist. I was inspired by Thomas's story: he gave up everything he had to dedicate his life to eradicating nuclear weapons from our planet.
Then I met Mitch Snyder, who trained me in organizing as I helped coordinate the Mid-West for Housing Now! I would be remiss to not also mention B. Wardlaw, who actually asked me to help him with the organizing. After the march, I joined the Community for Creative Non-Violence, which runs what was then the largest shelter for the homeless in the country. I was assigned to help coordinate the Winter Campaign. We brought groups in from around the country to spend a week on the streets of DC by night and on the Capitol steps by day. At the end of each day, we would report to Mitch on our progress, and he would advise us on what we were doing wrong and what we were doing right.
I worked a lot with Phil Berrigan, and he taught me more about having faith - that while we don't see immediate results, our actions do have an effect in the long run. A few others who taught me a lot along the way were Paul Wellstone, Lisa Fithian, David Solnit, and you, Marc ... It would be probably take the rest of the article to talk about everyone, so let's stop there.
MA: The coverage of the events at Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas, which you engineered along with William Rivers Pitt, broke new ground for independent, non-profit reporting. In fact, several mainstream news organizations quoted TO as their source. Did you and Will beat them to the punch?
SG: We beat them to the punch by covering Cindy Sheehan before she became a media sensation. We interviewed Cindy in Fayetteville, NC, in March and ran many of her own writings prior to that. What happened was reporters did Google searches for background, and there we were. TO doesn't wait until someone is a star to cover them if what they are saying is important. There were many others in Crawford who we have already covered: Aidan Delgado, Tim Goodrich, Camilo Mejia, Jeff Key, and Kelly Doherty from Iraq Veterans Against the War; Nadia McAffery, Celeste and Dante Zappala of Gold Families and Military Families Speak Out.
If the corporate media had been telling their stories to the American people, a million people would have been in the streets on September 24th. That is why t r u t h o u t is growing every day: we are telling the stories that the corporate media is refusing to tell.
MA: When you arrived in Crawford, did you know right away that something special was happening there?
SG: I knew something special was happening on my way to Crawford. I had a T-shirt on that said "A war budget leaves every child behind." On both of my flights, people asked me if I was going to see the grieving mother. Her message had already reached the mainstream. It didn't take long once I was there to see the excitement; even though we arrived the day after a huge rainstorm, the spirit at Camp Casey was amazing. Ann Wright was coordinating a move of tents to make room for the crosses that had just arrived from Santa Monica. Reverend Johnson, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was giving non-violence trainings, and back at the Peace House, the big complaint was that PayPal couldn't handle all the donations coming in. It was only day 5, and Camp Casey was growing fast.
MA: To an objective observer, Cindy Sheehan's stand at Crawford, Texas, looked like a turning point in the war against the war. Was it an epiphany for the nation?
SG: It was a turning point. I met many people who told me they had never attended a demonstration before, but when they saw Cindy, they were moved to act. They didn't just go to Washington on September 24th, they went to Crawford and spent days in 100-degree heat. It was the simplicity of the question "What noble cause?" Everyone got it, and when Bush couldn't answer the question or meet with her, people woke up. The media hadn't covered anyone challenging Bush before - now a grieving mother is asking what noble cause her son has died for and the Bush administration can't answer the question.
MA: There were a lot of powerful moments at Camp Casey in Crawford. You were there, what do you remember most vividly?
SG: There was one thing that happened more than once and it was what impressed me most about Cindy. Whenever a pro-Bush/pro-war protester came across the street to confront her, she would ask them to walk with her and talk privately away from the cameras. I saw on two occasions and heard about more where those conversations ended in hugs. There was also a night when Jeff Key, a Marine, went across the street and invited the counter-protesters to join Camp Casey for a candlelight vigil honoring the troops. A few minutes later he came across the street carrying a giant pole with an American flag on top, followed by the counter-protesters. Camp Casey greeted them with cheers.
On the stage at Camp Casey II there were Joan Baez, Steve Earle, and Jesse Dyan. Jesse was the sound guy who wrote a song called "What about Your Son" that really captured the mood of the camp. Each day there were other amazing moments. There was even a wedding at Camp Casey.
Another not-so-great moment that I will never forget happened when the crosses were mowed down by a pickup truck. Minutes after we learned that it happened, a Camp Casey volunteer logged on to her computer and found out that her pen pal was killed in Iraq. It was another one of those moments - Cindy rose to the occasion and comforted her.
The climax was when I arrived at the Capitol in Austin with Cindy on the Veterans for Peace Bus. There was a sea of people waiting to greet the first leg of the bus tour. Camp Casey was taking the country by storm.
MA: Okay, the bus tour is a story unto itself, but I'd like to fast forward to the destination, Washington, DC. A massive convergence for peace unlike any this nation has seen since the Vietnam era. Set the stage for our readers - what was DC like?
SG: I have been attending demonstrations in Washington, DC, and San Francisco since the late eighties. September 24th was the largest I have attended. People were still arriving from all directions at 12:30 pm, the time the march was scheduled to begin. The organizers never got a chance to get a lead banner set up, since there was a mass of people from the Ellipse to Lafayette Park. I was looking for the lead banner, but noticed that people just gave up and started marching on their own. I went up to Pennsylvania Avenue on the Lafayette Park side of the White House and started filming. Tens of thousands of people went by before I saw the lead banner. I assumed at that time that they were pretty far back, but it was four hours later before the end of the march.
One impressive contingent was the Iraq Veterans Against the War; they had dozens of veterans of the current Iraq war marching. There hundreds of family members of fallen or deployed soldiers from this war. There were many others marching for the first time. My friend and colleague, William Rivers Pitt, frequently commented over the weekend that the anti-war movement is now the majority, and it was clear on September 24th that the majority has been activated.
Cindy said many times in Crawford that she is convinced that the Camp Casey movement will end the war. September 24th was a huge step in that direction.
The events of September 26th were the next step. Hundreds converged on the Capitol to lobby Congress, and hundreds more converged on the White House to deepen their resistance to the war by participating in civil disobedience.
It is now clear that people are no longer going to sit back and let this administration send our young people to die for a lie. When Cindy Sheehan went to Crawford, Texas, to ask the President "what noble cause Casey died for," she woke up the nation and provided a catalyst for a mainstream movement against this war.
MA: Scott, thank you.