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Sheehan tour draws 300 to Hastert's office

BATAVIA - Chants of "Shame on Bush" by antiwar demonstrators were met with chants of "Shame on You," from supporters of President Bush during an antiwar demonstration Wednesday outside of U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office. More than 300 people met in front of the Hastert's office for a rally as part of the Bring Them Home Now Tour, which includes Gold Star Families for Peace and co-founder Cindy Sheehan, the California mother who kept vigil in front of Bush's Crawford ranch last month. The Batavia stop was part of a 26-state tour leading up to the United for Peace and Justice Mobilization, an antiwar demonstration that will take place from Sept. 24-26 in the nation's capital. Hastert was in Washington, D.C. yesterday, but spokesman Brad Hahn said some of the members of the antiwar group met with a Hastert staff member on Tuesday. Sheehan supporters stood in front of an American flag and a list of names of fallen soldiers. They listened to speeches made by military family members and Iraq veterans, which sometimes couldn't be heard over the chants of the Bush supporters and antiwar demonstrators. More than a dozen police officers stood in front of Hastert's office, many of them carrying stacks of plastic bands used as temporary handcuffs. Sycamore resident Carolyn Watson said it was important for her to be at the rally to show support for Sheehan, whose son, 24-year-old Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed in Baghdad in April 2004. Watson wore a button with a cross bearing Casey Sheehan's name and the message "Bush lied, he died." "This mother mourned her child, I mourn her child and any children that died in the war," Watson said. Earl Johnson, 75, of St. Charles fought in the Korean War. He held a sign that said "Bush has given us 1,448 days of a terrorist-free society." He said the soldiers are doing a great job in Iraq and he's happy to see that women there can vote and girls can go to school, he said. Johnson said he was at the demonstration to show his support for free speech. "I'll die to give them the right to be wrong," he said. Sheehan arrived toward the end of the rally and spoke to the crowd briefly. She was met with chants of "Where's your husband?" by the Bush supporters. They were referring to reports of Sheehan's pending divorce. James Frazier of St. Charles also is a Gold Star family member. Gold Star families have relatives who have died in the military. Frazier's son, Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier, was killed in Afghanistan in March 2003. He said Sheehan didn't speak for him. "I never said I speak for them," Sheehan said. "I speak for myself." Sheehan was surrounded by supporters and mobbed by people who wanted to hug her or have a photo taken with her. Though Hastert wasn't in Batavia on Wednesday, Sheehan said the rally helped energize the movement. "I don't want other mothers to go through what I went through," she said. She said that had she been able to speak to Hastert she would have asked him, "How many more are you willing to sacrifice?" Aracely Hernandez can be reached at ahernandez@daily-chronicle.com.

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