CRAWFORD, Texas - As Cindy Sheehan and other military families who oppose the war take their protest on the road after a 26-day vigil, a few demonstrators plan to keep camping out near President Bush's ranch until the war with Iraq ends.
Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son Casey died in Iraq last year, and other protesters plan to go Thursday afternoon to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's office in the Houston area.
Sheehan and several dozen demonstrators left Crawford on Wednesday in three buses for the 25-state "Bring Them Home Now Tour," which will end with an anti-war march Sept. 24 in Washington.
One bus went to U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's Dallas office. Sheehan's bus went to Austin, where nearly 2,000 attended a rally at City Hall after many of them marched from the state Capitol chanting and holding anti-war signs. About two dozen Bush supporters held a counter rally nearby.
"Thank you for being a bright spot in what is so-called Bush country," Sheehan, of Vacaville, Calif., told her cheering supporters.
Sheehan had vowed to stay in Crawford until Bush's monthlong vacation ended or until she could question him about the war that has claimed more than 1,870 U.S. soldiers' lives. She missed a week of the protest because of her mother's stroke.
"We're going to keep on questioning him, and we're going to keep on until our troops are brought home because there's no noble cause," she said. "And that's why George Bush couldn't come out and talk to me because he doesn't have a noble cause" for the war.
But the makeshift campsite she started Aug. 6 in ditches off the main road leading to Bush's ranch - visited by some 10,000 people - isn't gone. A few tents remain so several people can keep camping until the war with Iraq ends, said Carl Rising-Moore of Indianapolis, a member of Veterans for Peace.
"What happened here has created a shift of conscience on a global basis. It's famous. It needs to be remembered," Rising-Moore said. "And President Bush spends an incredible amount of time here."
But even a smaller camp may not continue if McLennan County commissioners approve an ordinance banning parking and congregating off any road within seven miles of the ranch. Commissioners are to vote next month on that ordinance, proposed by landowners upset over traffic problems caused by the protest camp.
Bush, who has said he sympathizes with Sheehan, returned to Washington on Wednesday without meeting with her in Texas. Two top administration officials talked to Sheehan the first day of her protest.
On Wednesday at a smaller pro-Bush camp in a ditch across the street from Sheehan's site, about a dozen people began taking down their tents, canopies and signs, and putting away cases of water and food.
The counter camp took shape slowly about a week after Sheehan arrived, starting with a few people holding pro-Bush signs and expanding to crowds of several hundred on weekends.
Even presidential adviser Karl Rove stopped by the site Tuesday night and hugged and thanked the Bush supporters, said Valerie Duty, who helped expand the pro-Bush camp two weeks ago.
"I love the troops, and I love President Bush, and I support his decision on the war all the way - 100 percent," said Mary Hitt of nearby Valley Mills, who spent much of the past 10 days at the site that Bush supporters dubbed "Camp Reality."
Many Bush supporters said the war protest hurt U.S. troop morale. Critics also said Sheehan never spoke out against Bush or the war when she and other grieving families met the president about two months after her son died last year.
Sheehan said she was still in shock over Casey's death during that meeting. She said she became enraged after independent reports disputed Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein had mass-killing chemical and biological weapons - a main justification for the March 2003 invasion - and when she heard Bush say soldiers' deaths were noble.
AP staff writer Jim Vertuno in Austin contributed to this report.
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