One of the country’s most famous anti-war activists is now one of Berkeley’s newest residents.
Cindy Sheehan, who gained the world’s attention with her protest outside President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, has moved into a Berkeley apartment following her separation from her husband.
“I needed a place to stay, and some friends got me an apartment,” she said.
Not that Berkeley will see much of the mother who lost her son Casey in the Iraq war in April 2004.
“I spend most of my time traveling, and I’m home maybe seven to 10 days a month,” she said following a Friday press conference in the San Francisco office of Assemblymember Mark Leno. “I spend a lot of time in Southern California, and tomorrow I’ll be in New York City.”
Sheehan said that when she told Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia that she had moved to Berkeley, he laughed and said, “Well, of course you did.”
Berkeley, she said, was a more congenial place for her than Vacaville, where she had lived with her husband prior to the separation
Her San Francisco press conference was organized in support of a resolution by Berkeley Assemblymember Loni Hancock calling for the return of the state’s National Guard from overseas duty.
Before the press event, Sheehan met with an aide to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who listened to her concerns and promised to present them to the state’s chief executive.
Hancock’s Assembly Joint Resolution No. 36 calls on the Legislature to ask the state’s congressional delegation “to call on Congress to restore the balance between the federal government and the states vis-à-vis the National Guard, by limiting federal control to cases where there is an insurrection or a declaration of war...”
The resolution also calls on the state legislature to ask Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger “to ensure that the president and Congress take immediate steps to withdraw California National Guard troops from Iraq.”
Hancock’s aide, Armondo Viramontes, said the assemblymember will push the resolution as one of the Assembly’s first priorities when the Legislature opens for business in January. She has drawn 17 co-sponsors, numbering conservatives among their ranks.
California currently has 5,800 National Guard troops on duty overseas, with 2,300 of them in Iraq, said Viramontes.
“The National Guard and the reserves account for 50 percent of the casualties, but not 50 percent of the troops. They are not trained properly and they are not equipped properly. Their own government doesn’t support them,” Sheehan said. “I know families who have had to hold bake sales to raise money for body armor.”
Sheehan said activists should organize on a state-by-state basis to hold the governors of each state responsible for the fate of the National Guard troops.
Leno, Viramontes and Sheehan declared that California needs the National Guard at home to handle domestic emergencies.
“What’s going to happen if we have an earthquake in California or fires? Who’s going to protect California?” Sheehan asked. Recent “national disasters we’ve had in this country prove that having our National Guard overseas has made our country more vulnerable.”
“Immediately recall them,” Viramontes urged. “Right now. Not this week. Not next month. But right now.”
Hancock was unable to attend because she was in Romania where her father, veteran New York Liberal Party activist Donald S. Harrington, had died last month.
Sheehan offered bitter criticism of the Bush administration, which she described as arrogant.
“They think that because they now control all three branches of government, they can do whatever they want,” she said. “They have imposed a virtual dictatorship for the past five years. It is very ironic that George Bush says he’s spreading freedom in Iraq when he’s destroying it here at home.”?