Sheehan Leaves Town; Mother Had A Stroke

Cindy Sheehan suddenly ended her nearly two-week-long vigil Thursday near the President’s Central Texas ranch after learning her 74-year-old mother had suffered a stroke.

Sheehan is the Vacaville, Calif. woman who is demanding a meeting with the President about the death of her 24-year-old son Casey, a 1st Cavalry Division soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

She was scheduled to fly out of Waco at about 5 p.m. Thursday.

Meanwhile the protesters who have joined her anti-war vigil packed up their tents Thursday afternoon to move to a private patch of pastureland near the President’s ranch.

The move may not be complete until the weekend.

A prayer service is scheduled Friday at the roadside protest site.

Landowner Fred Mattlage invited the protesters to move to the pasture in the wake of complaints from other residents about crowds, traffic and access problems.

On Sunday night a nearby landowner startled the demonstrators and Secret Service agents alike when he fired a shotgun blast into the air.

He later told reporters he was getting ready for dove hunting season.

There have been other incidents, as well.

On Monday night, a 59-year-old McLennan County man was arrested after a pickup truck tore through a row of crosses erected by the protesters. The crosses bear the names of U.S. war dead.

On Thursday morning, a 23-year-old California man was arrested after protesters told sheriff’s deputies a man who claimed to be a federal agent threatened them. Complaints, including making a terroristic threat and impersonating a peace officer were pending late Thursday against the arrested man.

Emotions have run high on both sides over the two-week-long protest.

Sheehan had vowed to remain in Central Texas until the President agrees to meet with her about the death of her 24-year-old son Casey, a 1st Cavalry Division soldier who was killed in Iraq last year.

It wasn’t immediately clear if or when she may return.

Critics say she’s a traitor who’s exploiting the death of her son to advance a liberal political agenda.

Supporters of her protest rallied Wednesday night around in the country as candlelight vigils were held in hundreds of towns and cities.

President Bush has publicly expressed sympathy for Sheehan, but says it would be a mistake to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq prematurely.

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