St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Judge upholds protest limits

Published August 9, 2006

CRAWFORD, Texas - Roadside camping and parking bans are constitutional, a federal judge ruled, blocking protesters from pitching tents or placing portable toilets in ditches near President Bush's ranch.

Protesters sought to make a smaller makeshift campsite than what Cindy Sheehan set up a year ago off the winding, two-lane road leading to Bush's ranch, said attorney David Broiles, who sued on behalf of Sheehan and four other antiwar demonstrators.

But less than a week after asking the protesters and McLennan County officials to try to reach a compromise, U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith ruled unexpectedly late Monday that the county ordinances enacted last fall are constitutional.

"I can't speculate about why," Broiles said. He said his clients may appeal the ruling or continue trying to reach a compromise with the county.

Herbert S. Bristow, one of the attorneys who represented the county, said he was not surprised by the judge's ruling because the ordinances - banning parking on parts of 14 roads near Bush's ranch and prohibiting camping in any county ditch - were well-researched.

Last fall, county commissioners banned roadside camping and parking after Sheehan's small group of protesters swelled to several thousand people on weekends and locals complained of the noise, traffic and odor from portable toilets.

Sheehan and a handful of protesters sat in chairs across from a roadblock near Bush's ranch again Tuesday.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.