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War protesters bracing for pro-Bush rally nearby

By ANGELA K. BROWN / Associated Press

More than 200 anti-war demonstrators along the road leading to President Bush's ranch were bracing Friday for a possible confrontation with Bush supporters at a counter-rally.

Leaders of the peace vigil, which grieving mother Cindy Sheehan started last weekend, urged the group to be prepared for antagonism but to ignore those at the other rally. It was apparently organized by a nationally syndicated conservative radio talk show host and slated to begin Friday night near or at the war protesters' crowded makeshift campsite.

A few Bush supporters arrived on their own Friday and stood at the edge of the site, initially enduring some ridicule by the war opponents.

"Over the last two or three days Cindy Sheehan has been talking about how our president is a murderer and how the war is for no good reason, and I disagree with her," said Thomas F. Zapp, 52, of Richmond, whose 20-year-old son T.J. was killed in Iraq last fall. "But I respect their opinions, and I hope they respect mine."

Earlier Friday, Bush's motorcade sped by the protesters en route to a fundraiser, but it didn't stop.

It's unclear if Bush, riding in a black Suburban with tinted windows, looked at the demonstrators. One woman said first lady Laura Bush looked out the window at them.

Sheehan held a sign that read: "Why do you make time for donors and not for me?"

Law enforcement agencies blocked two intersecting roads where the protesters have camped out all week and required them to stand behind yellow tape about 10-15 feet from the main road leading to the ranch. No demonstrators were asked to leave.

Bush passed the group to and from his neighbor's ranch, where he met about 230 donors at a lunchtime barbecue that was expected to raise at least $2 million for the Republican National Committee.

Sheehan, 48, of Vacaville, Calif., whose 24-year-old son Casey died in Iraq last year, set up camp last weekend a few miles from Bush's ranch. Dozens have since joined her, pitching tents in muddy, shallow ditches, and they vow to remain until Bush meets with Sheehan and other grieving parents or until his monthlong ranch visit ends.

"Isn't it time that the American people woke up and realized what this war is costing everyone?" said Sue Niederer, whose son Seth Dvorin died in Iraq last year.

Bush has said that he sympathizes with Sheehan but did not say if he will talk to her. Bush has met with about 900 relatives of 272 U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Sheehan said she wants to hold the president accountable for faulty prewar intelligence that she says led to an unnecessary war.

"I don't want comfort from him," Sheehan said. "I want answers. I want the truth."

On Friday, she released a 60-second television ad running on cable channels in the Crawford area the rest of the month. The $15,000 cost was paid for by Gold Star Families, a group Sheehan co-founded.


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