Published on Saturday, July 1, 2006 by the Associated Press
Protester Cindy Sheehan Sues Over Camping Ban
WACO, Texas -- Cindy Sheehan and four other war protesters on Friday sued McLennan County over roadside camping and parking bans near President Bush's Crawford ranch, saying they want to return to what became an "international symbol of protest against the Iraq war."
Sheehan, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., was in Waco on Friday to file the suit, which also names the sheriff and county commissioners individually. The suit filed in state district court asks that the ordinances not be enforced during protests in August and ultimately be declared void.
Sheehan, whose oldest son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004, reinvigorated the anti-war movement last summer with her peace vigil - dubbed "Camp Casey" - that started in ditches off the winding, two-lane road leading to Bush's ranch. As it grew, the group also set up "Camp Casey II" on a private, one-acre lot closer to the ranch.
But after neighbors complained of traffic congestion from the August rally that drew thousands to the 700-resident rural town, commissioners took action a month later. The new ordinances ban parking on parts of 14 roads near the ranch - roughly a 5-mile radius - and prohibit camping in any county ditch.
The four other plaintiffs - former U.S. diplomat Ann Wright, Daniel Ellsberg, Tammara Rosenleaf and Charlie Anderson - were among 12 protesters arrested in November after setting up camp at Sheehan's original site. They were charged with two misdemeanors.
Ellsberg, the former high-level Pentagon analyst who in 1969 leaked the Pentagon Papers to Congress and the media, also was arrested at the original campsite in April at another "civil disobedience" action, along with 13 other protesters.
Sheehan was not arrested either time.
But only two of the protesters' cases have been filed by prosecutors, and that wasn't until last month. The anti-war demonstrators want to challenge the constitutionality of the ordinances in court, so instead of continuing to wait on prosecutors to file charges, they decided to sue.
"We do not need a free-speech zone. America is a free-speech zone," Rosenleaf said. "We're no threat to the president. And other than being a threat to the president, there is no reason to have created that no-speech zone."
War protests were held the week of Thanksgiving and Easter on the larger, private lot used by the demonstrators, where they plan to return for a few weeks in August.
But they want to camp at the original site - the ditches and a triangle section of land where three roads intersect, where Sheehan and the others who marched toward the ranch demanding to talk to Bush were initially corralled because deputies mistakenly thought it was public right-of-way.
"That's where we made our stand to talk to President Bush," Rosenleaf said. "It's logical that's where we want to return. That's sacred ground for us."
© 2006 Associated Press