CRAWFORD, Texas – One of President Bush's neighbors will allow use of his land by dozens of war protesters who have camped in roadside ditches the past 11 days, giving them more room and halving their distance from Bush's ranch.
Demonstrators said Fred Mattlage made the offer because he sympathizes with them. The protesters' makeshift camp off a winding, two-lane road leading to Bush's ranch has agitated other residents, who complained of traffic jams and blocked roads.
Cindy Sheehan (search) of Vacaville, Calif., started the vigil Aug. 6 to honor her son Casey, who was killed in Iraq last year. Sheehan has vowed to remain through Bush's monthlong ranch visit unless he meets with her and other grieving families.
Mattlage's Monday night offer, accepted by protesters Tuesday, will put them about a mile from Bush's ranch, said Hadi Jawad of the Crawford Peace House (search), which is helping the group.
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 (search), TrueMajority and Democracy for America.
A telephone message left for Mattlage by The Associated Press wasn't immediately returned Tuesday. A distant cousin who owns nearby land, Larry Mattlage (search), fired a shotgun twice into the air Sunday but no one was injured. Fred Mattlage said he does not share his cousin's frustrations with the group, Jawad said.
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.
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.