Camping Ban Near Bush Ranch Upheld

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, 2nd right, leads a group of anti-war protesters on a march to President Bush's ranch on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2006 in Crawford, Texas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Roadside camping and parking bans are constitutional, a federal judge ruled, blocking protesters from pitching tents or placing portable toilets in ditches near President Bush's ranch.

Protesters sought to make a smaller makeshift campsite than what Cindy Sheehan set up a year ago off the winding, two-lane road leading to Bush's ranch, said attorney David Broiles, who sued on behalf of Sheehan and four other anti-war demonstrators.

But less than a week after asking the protesters and McLennan County officials to try to reach a compromise, U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith ruled unexpectedly late Monday that the county ordinances enacted last fall are constitutional.

"I can't speculate about why," Broiles said, adding that his clients may appeal the ruling or continue trying to reach a compromise with the county.

Herbert S. Bristow, one of the attorneys who represented the county in the lawsuit, said he was not surprised by the judge's ruling because the ordinances — banning parking on parts of 14 roads near Bush's ranch and prohibiting camping in any county ditch — were well-researched.

Last fall, county commissioners banned roadside camping and parking after Sheehan's small group of protesters swelled to several thousand people on weekends and locals complained of the noise, traffic and odor from portable toilets.

Sheehan and a handful of protesters sat in chairs across from a roadblock near Bush's ranch again Tuesday, where she also released 18 balloons with postcards saying she wanted to meet with the president.

Sheehan kicked off her summer protest Sunday on a 5-acre lot she bought last month. The land near downtown is more than 7 miles from the ranch, much farther from the group's second protest site, a 1-acre lot a sympathetic landowner let the group use until recently.
  • Melissa McNamara

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