'Fahrenheit' Draws Mob In Crawford

Darlene Lanham, 28, left, Sarah Looney, 27, center, and Erin Taber, 25, right, are silhouetted as they watch a screening of Michael Moore's 'Fahrenheit 9/11' in Crawford, Texas, near President Bush's ranch, Wednesday, July 28, 2004. The three friends traveled from Austin, Texas to watch the movie.
Brian Munoz already saw the documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" in a theater, but he and some friends couldn't resist a chance to watch it again outdoors on a muggy summer night - especially only a few miles from President Bush.

They were among more than 3,000 people - three times more than originally expected - who sat on lawn chairs, pillows or blankets Wednesday night, soaking in Michael Moore's film that lambastes President Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq and his handling of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

"A lot of people are calling it propaganda, but if you look at it hard, the facts are there," said Munoz, who drove nearly 200 miles from Lewisville in a car covered with anti-Bush slogans.

Moore initially said he would come to Crawford and discuss the movie afterward - and even invited Bush to attend. But on Wednesday Moore decided to remain at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, saying his presence in Crawford would overshadow the film's message and detract from the convention.

There were plenty of locals in the president's adopted hometown on hand to lend support to their famous neighbor, who has been vacationing at his Crawford ranch for several days but has made no public appearances.

Carol Bernhard and several friends came from Austin and held a huge sign proclaiming "This is Bush Country." She said she didn't plan to see the movie: "I'm not going to give that traitor any of my money."

After more than 300 people attended a pro-Bush rally earlier Wednesday night, many spilled out of the building and gathered on Main Street holding signs praising President Bush and criticizing the award-winning filmmaker.

Dozens of Bush supporters then walked about a mile to a parking lot, where the movie was shown. They stood at the entrance, chanting "No More Moore!" several times during the film. A few got into heated discussions with moviegoers as a policeman stood between them.

The film's screening was organized by the Crawford Peace House, an interfaith gathering place that often serves as a catalyst for peace protests at the Bush ranch. "This was not done as a protest; it was a demonstration of free speech," said Kay Lucas, a house volunteer. Organizers asked viewers for an $8 suggested donation.

By Angela K. Brown