Sheehan's Absence, Rain Keep Anti-War Crowds Away

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - A few dozen anti-war activists faced light rain in Washington, D.C., Tuesday as they gathered to kick off a 17-day protest of the war in Iraq and other Bush administration policies.

The protest, which was dubbed "Camp Democracy" and marketed as a project of anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, began with a news conference near the base of the Washington Monument. It continued with a "blessing" performed by a Native American spiritualist.

Sheehan was originally scheduled to attend the camp's opening ceremonies but did not make the trip from her recent protest near President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch due to "health reasons," according to organizers. During the Texas protest, Sheehan was hospitalized for dehydration and underwent a hysterectomy.

The Washington demonstration is sponsored by several anti-war organizations and liberal advocacy groups, including, CODE PINK, the National Immigrant Solidarity Network and the National Organization for Women.

The opening ceremonies drew fewer than 50 protesters, who gathered under one of five large tents erected to protect a crowd of hundreds from the rain, which is forecast to continue for the first three days of the event.

They displayed large "Bring the Troops Home" banners and listened as members of the group Military Families Speak Out shared their opposition for the war.

The demonstration, scheduled to continue through Sept. 21, will also address other "progressive" issues, including workshops on "immigrant rights, workers rights, women's rights, voting rights, [and Hurricane] Katrina."

Several elected officials, including Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee of California and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, are scheduled to address the demonstrators over the course of the event.

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