Environmental Group Unfurls a Protest
in Bush's Backyard


CRAWFORD, Tex., April 13 This sleepy prairie outpost in Central Texas had its first taste today of the hazards of being home to a famous person.

Small-town life was going on as usual this morning when three activists from Greenpeace, the environmental group, scaled the 86-foot water tower here and unfurled a 30-foot banner branding President Bush, visiting his ranch a few miles away, "The Toxic Texan." In a play on the state's tough-guy anti-littering motto, it added, "Don't Mess With the Earth."

Greenpeace wanted to draw attention to what it considered Mr. Bush's "aggressive assault against the environment," in the words of Andrea Durbin, a spokeswoman for the group. Ms. Durbin said the group's concerns included global warming, oil exploration on federal land and regulatory moves that favored industry over protecting the environment.

As Ms. Durbin spoke, her three comrades peered down from the metal catwalk around the 45,000- gallon water drum. The tower looms, conveniently, over Crawford Elementary School, where reporters camp when Mr. Bush is staying at his ranch.

Eventually, at the prodding of the police, the climbers descended peacefully and allowed themselves to be handcuffed. They were driven to the county jail 35 miles away in Waco, where they were to be booked on charges of criminal trespassing.

President Bush was at his 1,583- acre ranch, where he was receiving his intelligence briefing, taking a walk with his wife, clearing brush and chopping wood, said his spokesman, Ari Fleischer. Mr. Fleischer said he did not know whether the president was aware of the protest.

Asked for comment, he said, "It's a free country."

The protest was clearly staged more for the media than for the president. The banner was facing the elementary school and television cameras, which were in the opposite direction of the ranch.

Robert L. Campbell, the mayor of Crawford, population 705, had been getting ready to mow his lawn when he heard about the climbers. "This is the first turmoil we've had like this," Mayor Campbell said.

But this was the price, he said, for "having a famous guy in the neighborhood."

Source: N.Y. Times -April 14, 2001