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Commissioners pass ordinance to limit camping near Bush ranch
McLennan County Commissioners passed an ordinance Monday limiting where people can stop along roads surrounding President Bush's ranch and now a civil rights organization is threatening a lawsuit.
Supporters of the ordinance say it will improve public safety but opponents say it limits our First Amendment rights. In a 4-to-1 vote, Commissioners passed an ordinance prohibiting parking and stopping on more than 20 miles of roads surrounding President Bush's ranch.
County Commissioner Ray Meadows says, "I feel about 90 percent good. I would have liked some other things put in there, but I've got to accept what I can get."
"I believe strongly in the First Amendment and the Constitution," Commissioner Joe Mashek says, "And when you ask us to pass this kind of law, I think it goes against what the Constitution says."
The ordinance comes in response to a month long anti-war demonstration lead by Cindy Sheehan along Prairie Chapel Road, where people camped out along the ditches. On any given day, cars lined the roads forcing the sheriff to set up what he called a "constant vigil" just to make sure nobody got hurt.
Area residents told commissioners the mass of humanity made it hard to get to their homes and they feared for their family's safety.
One said, "I've lived in that area all my life and this past month is the first time we have ever had a �No Trespassing� sign and gates we can lock across our entrance way."
But demonstrators say the public's safety does not outweigh our First Amendment rights.
Paul McDaniel with the Crawford Peace House says, �This is a great opportunity to demonstrate to the world� freedom of speech, even of dissent, is not only allowed but is the highest form of patriotism.�
But Mike Dixon, an attorney for the county, says, �If someone has the world's largest dove hunt out there and there are pick-up's parked out there, that's a problem. It's not aimed at content or the message, it's aimed at the problem.�
The Texas Civil Rights Project says they're seriously considering a lawsuit. Commissioners will take up next week another ordinance prohibiting make shift tents on all county roads.