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Three Cheers for Fred Mattlage
War protesters near Bush ranch moving to neighbor's property
By Angela K. Brown
CRAWFORD, Texas – Dozens of war protesters camping in roadside ditches near President Bush's ranch have accepted a neighbor's offer to stay on his property.
Fred Mattlage, an Army veteran, offered the use of his corner 1-acre lot, saying he sympathizes with those participating in the vigil started Aug. 6 by Cindy Sheehan, who lost her 24-year-old son in Iraq last year.
Sheehan, of Vacaville, Calif., has vowed to remain through Bush's monthlong ranch vacation unless he meets with her and other grieving families. Her makeshift camp off the winding, two-lane road leading to Bush's ranch has angered most residents.
"I just think people should have a right to protest without being harassed," Mattlage told The Associated Press late Tuesday. "And I'm against the war. I don't think it's a war we need to be in."
Demonstrators said they would start moving their tents, anti-war banners and portable toilets to the new site Wednesday and hope to have the new camp set up in time for a dusk candlelight vigil.
The vigil will be one of about 1,000 to be held across the country, an effort organized by liberal advocacy groups MoveOn.org Political Action, TrueMajority and Democracy for America.
The new campsite will put them about a mile from Bush's ranch, said Hadi Jawad of the Crawford Peace House, which is helping the group.
For more than a week, the rural area has been a traffic nightmare as the camp attracted hundreds more protesters as well as Bush supporters holding counter-rallies.
Larry Mattlage, a distant cousin of Mattlage's who owns nearby land, fired a shotgun twice into the air Sunday but no one was injured.
A resident was arrested Monday night after authorities say he ran over hundreds of small wooden crosses bearing names of fallen U.S. soldiers.
Tuesday morning, several landowners asked county commissioners to extend for at least two miles the public "no parking" zone around Bush's ranch. The ordinance now prohibits cars from stopping on the road within about a quarter of a mile.
Bush, who said he sympathizes with Sheehan, has made no indication that he will meet with her. Sheehan and other families met with Bush two months after her son's death before she became a vocal opponent of the war.