Phil et al-- Apropos of my distressed reply this morning see below
Ps- Sorry about the botox ad. the price of free speech, as they call it?
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - When school was canceled to accommodate a campaign
visit by President
the two 55-year-old teachers reckoned the time was ripe to voice their
simmering discontent with the administration's policies.
Christine Nelson showed up at the Cedar Rapids rally with a Kerry-Edwards
button pinned on her T-shirt; Alice McCabe clutched a small, paper sign
stating "No More War." What could be more American, they thought, than
mixing a little dissent with the bunting and buzz of a get-out-the-vote
rally headlined by the president?
Their reward: a pair of handcuffs and a strip search at the county jail.
Authorities say they were arrested because they refused to obey reasonable
security restrictions, but the women disagree: "Because I had a dissenting
opinion, they did what they needed to do to get me out of the way," said
Nelson, who teaches history and government at one of this city's middle
"I tell my students all the time about how people came to this country for
freedom of religion, freedom of speech, that those rights and others are
sacred. And all along I've been thinking to myself, 'not at least during
Their experience is hardly unique.
In the months before the 2004 election, dozens of people across the nation
were banished from or arrested at Bush political rallies, some for heckling
the president, others simply for holding signs or wearing clothing that
expressed opposition to the war and administration policies.
Similar things have happened at official, taxpayer-funded, presidential
visits, before and after the election. Some targeted by security have been
escorted from events, while others have been arrested and charged with
misdemeanors that were later dropped by local prosecutors.
Now, in federal courthouses from Charleston, W.Va., to Denver, federal
officials and state and local authorities are being forced to defend
themselves against lawsuits challenging the arrests and security policies.
While the circumstances differ, the cases share the same fundamental themes.
Generally, they accuse federal officials of developing security measures to
identify, segregate, deny entry or expel dissenters.
Jeff Rank and his wife, Nicole, filed a lawsuit after being handcuffed and
booted from a July 4, 2004, appearance by the president at the West Virginia
Capitol in Charleston. The Ranks, who now live in Corpus Christi, Texas, had
free tickets to see the president speak, but contend they were arrested and
charged with trespassing for wearing anti-Bush T-shirts.
"It's nothing more than an attempt by the president and his staff to
suppress free speech," said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU
of West Virginia, which is providing legal services for the Ranks.
"What happened to the Ranks, and so many others across the country, was
clearly an incident of viewpoint discrimination. And the lawsuit is an
attempt to make the administration accountable for what we believe were
illegal actions," Schneider said.
In Cedar Rapids, McCabe and Nelson are suing three unnamed Secret
Service <http://search.news.yahoo.com/search/news/?p=Secret+Service> agents,
the Iowa State Patrol and two county sheriff deputies who took part in their
arrest. Nelson and McCabe, who now lives in Memphis, Tenn., accuse law
enforcement of violating their right to free speech, assembly and equal
The two women say they were political novices, inexperienced at protest and
unprepared for what happened on Sept. 3, 2004.
Soon after arriving at Noelridge Park, a sprawling urban playground dotted
with softball diamonds and a public pool, McCabe and Nelson were approached
by Secret Service agents in polo shirts and Bermuda shorts. They were told
that the Republicans had rented the park and they would have to move because
the sidewalk was now considered private property.
McCabe and Nelson say they complied, but moments later were again told to
move, this time across the street. After being told to move a third time,
Nelson asked why she was being singled out while so many others nearby,
including those holding buckets for campaign donations, were ignored. In
response, she says, they were arrested.
They were charged with criminal trespass, but the charges were later
A spokesman for the Secret Service declined to comment on pending litigation
or answer questions on security policy for presidential events. White House
spokesman Alex Conant also declined to comment, citing the ongoing
But Justice Department lawyers, in documents filed recently in federal court
in Cedar Rapids, outline security at the rally and defend the Secret Service
They contend the GOP obtained exclusive rights to use the park and that
donation takers were ignored because they were an authorized part of the
event. They also say McCabe and Nelson were disobedient, repeatedly refusing
agents' orders to move.
"At no time did any political message expressed by the two women play any
role in how (the agents) treated them," they wrote. "All individuals ...
subject to security restrictions either complied with the security
restrictions or were arrested for refusing to comply."
Defenders say stricter policies are a response to the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks and a small price for ensuring the safety of a world leader in an
era of heightened suspicion and uncertainty.
But Leslie Weise says law enforcers are violating citizens' rights to voice
objections within earshot of the president.
Last year, in Denver, Weise and two friends were evicted from a Bush town
hall meeting on Social
Weise, a 40-year-old environmental lawyer who is now a stay-at-home mother,
opposes the war in
administration's energy policies. Like friends Alex Young and Karen
Bauer, Weise did some volunteer work for the Kerry campaign.
In the days before Bush's March 2005 town hall meeting, the trio toyed
briefly with the notion of actively protesting the visit. But they said they
decided against it because they had heard of arrests at Bush appearances in
North Dakota and Arizona.
After parking Weise's car, the three, dressed in professional attire and
holding tickets obtained from their local congressman, arrived at the Wings
Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. Young cleared security, but Weise and
Bauer were briefly detained and told by staff they had been "identified" and
would be arrested if they tried "any funny stuff," according to court
After finding their seats, they were approached again by staff and removed
before Bush began speaking. Days later, Weise learned from Secret Service in
Denver that a bumper sticker on her green Saab hatchback — "No More Blood
for Oil" — caught the attention of security.
"I had every reason to attend that event, just as anyone else in the room
had that day," said Weise. "If we raised security to a higher level just
because we had an opinion different from the administration, I think that
goes far beyond what is appropriate for this country."
Lawsuits by protesters are not always embraced by the courts. In
Pennsylvania, a federal judge dismissed a suit challenging the arrests of
six men who stripped down to thongs and formed a pyramid to protest
Ghraib <http://search.news.yahoo.com/search/news/?p=Abu+Ghraib> scandal when
Bush paid a visit to Lancaster.
The judge ruled the authorities acted with probable cause and are entitled
to qualified immunity, shielding them from liability. The ruling is on
Such efforts to segregate or diminish dissent are hardly new to American
The ACLU has sued several presidents over attempts to silence opposition, as
in 1997, when President
to prevent protesters from lining his inaugural parade route. And
during the tumultuous 1960s, it was not uncommon for hecklers and protesters
to be whisked away or managed at a distance from rallies and events.
"In my mind, it all started with Nixon. He was the first presidential
candidate to really make an effort to control their image and disrupt public
interruption at events," said Cary Covington, a political science professor
at the University of Iowa.
But political experts say the 2004 Bush campaign rewrote the playbook for
organizing campaign rallies.
At the Republican National Convention in New York City and at other campaign
stops, security segregated protesters in designated "free speech zones" set
up at a significant distance from each rally. To get into events headlined
by Bush or Vice President Dick
supporters were required to obtain tickets through GOP channels or sign
Political experts agree Bush 2004 went to greater lengths than Kerry
officials — or any past campaign — to choreograph a seamless, partisan rally
free of the embarrassing moments that attract media attention.
Gone are the days of candidates facing down hecklers or reacting to
distractions like, the man who donned a chicken costume and pestered George
H.W. Bush in 1991 after he balked at Bill
invitations to debate.
Anthony Corrado, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, said
ticket-only events are an effective tool for rewarding legions of volunteers
who work the phone banks, raise money and build support.
"In my view, the Republicans did a much better job of linking field
volunteers with their schedule and events," Corrado said. "I had never seen
it done to the extent it was on 2004 on the Republican side. And my guess is
we'll probably see a lot more of it all."
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