WACO, Texas – Three war protesters on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against McLennan County, claiming two new ordinances banning roadside parking and camping infringe on their right to protest near President Bush's Crawford ranch.
Plaintiffs Richard Underhill and Benjamin Hart Viges, both veterans, and Sherry Glover, whose son-in-law is serving in Iraq, participated in some of the 26-day protest started in August by Cindy Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq last year.
Sheehan and hundreds of protesters camped out on the roadside leading to Bush's ranch, refusing to leave until he met with them or ended his ranch vacation. Two top Bush administration officials met with Sheehan, but the president never did.
A month later, county commissioners created and approved two new ordinances that prohibit parking on parts of 14 roads near the ranch — roughly a 7-mile radius — and ban camping in any county ditch.
County leaders said the ordinances aim to prevent another traffic nightmare that inconvenienced residents and threatened the safety of hundreds of protesters milling along the road — not limit First Amendment rights.
But Austin attorney Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said he filed the suit in Waco's federal court because the ordinances limit free speech rights and are too vague, giving authorities too much power to interpret them how they wish.
The suit seeks unspecified damages and an injunction to stop authorities from enforcing the ordinances.
Sheehan of Berkeley, Calif., and dozens of fellow peace activists are returning to Crawford this week to resume the war protest while Bush spends Thanksgiving at his ranch. They have said they expect to be arrested.