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Crawford protest moves nearer to Bush

Neighbor lets demonstrators use land

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Cindy Sheehan
George W. Bush
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CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- Anti-war demonstrators led by the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq will move their campsite closer to President Bush's Texas ranch.

The new site, offered by a sympathetic landowner, is a mile from Bush's Crawford home. The move comes after the president's neighbors complained about sanitation and traffic problems.

The landowner is a relative of the rancher who fired shots into the air Sunday, saying he was preparing for dove season, said Cindy Sheehan, the California woman who has maintained a vigil outside Bush's ranch since August 6. (Full story)

Fred Mattlage, 52, said he's offering the site to Sheehan as "an act of compassion for a parent that's lost a son in combat."

Sheehan, founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, is demanding a meeting with Bush in hopes of asking the president what her son Casey died to achieve and to press for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The protesters plan to move "Camp Casey" to Mattlage's property on Thursday and Friday.

Demonstrators have said they won't leave until the commander in chief meets with Sheehan.

The White House has said Bush met with Sheehan after her son's death in April 2004 and has announced no plans to talk with her again. The president said last week that withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq would send "a terrible signal" to insurgents.

Sheehan's protest has drawn dozens of supporters and counter-demonstrators to the town of 700 that Bush has made home. He is in the middle of a five-week vacation there.

One woman, who identified herself as an Iraqi immigrant, held a sign across the road from protesters Tuesday that read, "Troop removal (equals) disaster -- keep the promise."

Together with other liberal activist groups True Majority and Democracy for America, MoveOn.org said it plans to hold more than 1,400 candlelight vigils across the country Wednesday night to show support for Sheehan.

Meanwhile, some Crawford residents urged county officials to crack down on the protesters, citing traffic, parking and health concerns, the use of portable toilets and security.

"Who else is going to come up there?" asked ranch neighbor Melissa Harrison. "We don't know who all is up there protesting, what type of people it's bringing around, and I don't think they know everybody's background. So that's just my concern there."

McLellan County Commissioner Ray Meadows complained about media trucks parking along a narrow two-lane road near the current protest site.

In a conference call Wednesday, Mattlage told reporters his decision to offer the property had nothing to do with the actions of Larry Mattlage, his "distant cousin" who fired shots into the air on his property near the site.

Fred Mattlage said he hopes the new site will alleviate traffic.

The site is owned by Mattlage's brother Mark, who gave him permission to offer the land. Mattlage, his two brothers and sister own a 212-acre lot adjacent to the one-acre fenced property.

Mattlage said the family will allow the protesters to park their cars on the larger lot if they provide a gate attendant to ensure cattle do not escape.

Mattlage, who served with the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division in the 1970s, said he is against the war in Iraq and is concerned the United States "didn't learn a valuable enough lesson from Vietnam."

Man accused of running over crosses

Sheehan said she doesn't want to press charges against a pickup driver who early Tuesday allegedly ran over a makeshift memorial for the more than 1,800 Americans killed in Iraq. Police said he drove a pickup over 500 crosses and 40 American flags.

Court papers identified him as Larry Northern, 59, from nearby Waco.

He has been charged with a felony criminal mischief count. Damage to the memorial was estimated at more than $1,500. He was released after posting $3,000 bail, according to court records.

Sheehan said protesters would ask for a restraining order to keep the driver away from their camp.

Dave Jensen, a participant in the protest, said the truck driver appeared to be dragging a piece of pipe behind his pickup to aid in the destruction.

"The whole idea is everybody is just supporting the troops and honoring the troops," Jensen said. "This was definitely not a way to honor the troops, no matter what side of the fence you're on."

CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report.

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