Senior editor Pamela Colloff on spending a day in Crawford and talking to war protesters.
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texasmonthly.com: Did you volunteer to work on this piece? What interested you about it?
Pamela Colloff: Creative director Scott Dadich and contributing photographer Brent Humphreys came up with the idea when they heard that Cindy Sheehan would be staging a protest in Crawford over Thanksgiving weekend. Because I had spent a month reporting in Crawford in 2002, they asked me to write the story. It actually involved no writing—just interviewing.
texasmonthly.com: How long were you in Crawford, and how did you decide which protesters to write about?
PC: Brent and I were in Crawford for only one day, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I interviewed the protesters who Brent said he was the most interested in photographing.
texasmonthly.com: You have written about Crawford before. Is the climate the same as it was? How has it changed?
PC: That’s hard to say because I spent so little time there for this particular story. I didn’t see anyone at the protest who I knew from my time in Crawford; everyone I spoke with that afternoon had come into town from somewhere else: Waco, Houston, Dallas, and so on.
texasmonthly.com: How long did you talk to each protester?
PC: Brent asked me to interview each protester while he or she was being photographed. It was hard to have any kind of real conversation that way, since there was a protest going on around us. So I called everyone afterward and spoke to them at greater length.
texasmonthly.com: What was the most difficult aspect of working on this story?
PC: Some people were very wary when I first approached them, particularly if they were old enough to remember how the FBI kept track of protesters during the Vietnam era. They would say, “You want to take my picture?!” and were very suspicious of our motives.
texasmonthly.com: What was the most interesting thing you learned while working on this story?
PC: Usually, people don’t like to talk about the war very openly. Everyone seems to have strong views about our involvement in Iraq, so it doesn’t make for “polite conversation.” I found it refreshing to be in a space where people were outspoken about their opinions.
texasmonthly.com: In the story featured in the magazine, there are two protesters in their twenties, two in their fifties, one in his sixties, and one in his seventies. Did you get the sense that most of the protesters in Crawford were of this same age? Was there a broad spectrum of people?
PC: There were people of all ages and backgrounds—retired military, hippies, you name it.
texasmonthly.com: I’m assuming there were also people there who are in favor of the Iraq war. Can you give us a description of the scene as you first remember it?
PC: The protest took place several miles away from the main drag in Crawford, in a field that is out by the Bush ranch. People who were pro-war stayed in town, and there were far fewer of them. Some were standing on the main street holding signs, and others were at a meeting up the street making care packages for the troops in Iraq. So the anti-war and pro-war camps never really had any interaction that day, as far as I could see.
texasmonthly.com: What was the one thing that has stayed with you from working on this story?
PC: We interviewed and photographed a guy who was about twenty and from California. (We didn’t end up running his photo.) Right before he sat down to have his photo taken, he looked at all the makeshift white crosses that the protesters had set up for American soldiers who had been killed in the Iraq war. When I started interviewing him, he began to cry. He was very moved by those crosses. That’s what I remember most about that day.