Thursday, February 02, 2006

If anyone has a defense for this, I'd love to hear it.

The following is a letter written by anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan regarding her experience at the State of the Union Address Tuesday night. Taken from Common Dreams.

Dear Friends,

As most of you have probably heard, I was arrested before the State of the Union Address tonight.

I am speechless with fury at what happened and with grief over what we have lost in our country.

There have been lies from the police and distortions by the press. (Shocker) So this is what really happened:

This afternoon at the People's State of the Union Address in DC where I was joined by Congresspersons Lynn Woolsey and John Conyers, Ann Wright, Malik Rahim and John Cavanagh, Lynn brought me a ticket to the State of the Union Address. At that time, I was wearing the shirt that said: 2245 Dead. How many more?

After the PSOTU press conference, I was having second thoughts about going to the SOTU at the Capitol. I didn't feel comfortable going. I knew George Bush would say things that would hurt me and anger me and I knew that I couldn't disrupt the address because Lynn had given me the ticket and I didn't want to be disruptive out of respect for her. I, in fact, had given the ticket to John Bruhns who is in Iraq Veterans Against the War. However, Lynn's office had already called the media and everyone knew I was going to be there so I sucked it up and went.

I got the ticket back from John, and I met one of Congresswoman Barbara Lee's staffers in the Longworth Congressional Office building and we went to the Capitol via the undergroud tunnel. I went through security once, then had to use the rest room and went through security again.

My ticket was in the 5th gallery, front row, fourth seat in. The person who in a few minutes was to arrest me, helped me to my seat.

I had just sat down and I was warm from climbing 3 flights of stairs back up from the bathroom so I unzipped my jacket. I turned to the right to take my left arm out, when the same officer saw my shirt and yelled; "Protester." He then ran over to me, hauled me out of my seat and roughly (with my hands behind my back) shoved me up the stairs. I said something like "I'm going, do you have to be so rough?" By the way, his name is Mike Weight.

The officer ran with me to the elevators yelling at everyone to move out of the way. When we got to the elevators, he cuffed me and took me outside to await a squad car. On the way out, someone behind me said, "That's Cindy Sheehan." At which point the officer who arrested me said: "Take these steps slowly." I said, "You didn't care about being careful when you were dragging me up the other steps." He said, "That's because you were protesting." Wow, I get hauled out of the People's House because I was, "Protesting."

I was never told that I couldn't wear that shirt into the Congress. I was never asked to take it off or zip my jacket back up. If I had been asked to do any of those things...I would have, and written about the suppression of my freedom of speech later. I was immediately, and roughly (I have the bruises and muscle spasms to prove it) hauled off and arrested for "unlawful conduct."

After I had my personal items inventoried and my fingers printed, a nice Sgt. came in and looked at my shirt and said, "2245, huh? I just got back from there."

I told him that my son died there. That's when the enormity of my loss hit me. I have lost my son. I have lost my First Amendment rights. I have lost the country that I love. Where did America go? I started crying in pain.

What did Casey die for? What did the 2244 other brave young Americans die for? What are tens of thousands of them over there in harm's way for still? For this? I can't even wear a shrit that has the number of troops on it that George Bush and his arrogant and ignorant policies are responsible for killing.

I wore the shirt to make a statement. The press knew I was going to be there and I thought every once in awhile they would show me and I would have the shirt on. I did not wear it to be disruptive, or I would have unzipped my jacket during George's speech. If I had any idea what happens to people who wear shirts that make the neocons uncomfortable that I would be arrested...maybe I would have, but I didn't.

There have already been many wild stories out there.

I have some lawyers looking into filing a First Amendment lawsuit against the government for what happened tonight. I will file it. It is time to take our freedoms and our country back.

I don't want to live in a country that prohibits any person, whether he/she has paid the ulitmate price for that country, from wearing, saying, writing, or telephoning any negative statements about the government. That's why I am going to take my freedoms and liberties back. That's why I am not going to let Bushco take anything else away from me...or you.

I am so appreciative of the couple of hundred of protesters who came to the jail while I was locked up to show their support....we have so much potential for good...there is so much good in so many people.

Four hours and 2 jails after I was arrested, I was let out. Again, I am so upset and sore it is hard to think straight.

Keep up the struggle...I promise you I will too.

Love and peace soon,


At 8:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the United States Code:
Title 40. Public Buildings, Property, and Works
Chapter 51. United States Capitol Buildings and Grounds
Section 5104. Unlawful activities

40 USC ยง 5104(e)(2): Violent entry and disorderly conduct.
. . .
(C) with the intent to disrupt the orderly conduct of official business, enter or remain in a room in any of the Capitol Buildings set aside or designated for the use of either House of Congress or a Member, committee, officer, or employee of Congress or either House of Congress;
(D) utter loud, threatening, or abusive language, or engage in disorderly or disruptive conduct, at any place in the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings with the intent to impede, disrupt, or disturb the orderly conduct of a session of Congress or either House of Congress, or the orderly conduct in that building of a hearing before, or any deliberations of, a committee of Congress or either House of Congress;
. . .


At 8:05 AM, Blogger Legal Ease said...

Dear Anonymous,

Did you read her letter? She made it clear that she did NOT intend to disrupt anything. I'm not sure how the section of the Code you've excerpted relates to this situation.

At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the capitol police are expected to read her mind?

Given her past media-whoring behavior I'm not sure she's viable to be taken on her word in this case anyway, especially given the fact that there's not a single piece of photographic or video evidence showing her being "manhandled."

Might also keep yourself abreast of the fact that a Repub. rep's wife was ejected for wearing a pro-war shirt, and during the Clinton impeachment a man was arrested for wearing a shirt which read "Clinton doesn't inhale, he sucks."

This isn't content-based enforcement, it s a law requiring decorum and prohibiting protesting and demonstrating in the capitol building. If she wanted to demonstrate, she should have gone outside.

We can have a discussion about whether or not this should be the law, but the fact remains that it is.

At 8:23 AM, Blogger Legal Ease said...

I don't support the arrest/removal of any of the persons you mentioned - sitting in one's seat wearing a shirt bearing no profanity or obscene graphics (even though my mom would argue that the Clinton detractee's shirt did bear profanity) does not, to me, rise to the level of the language in that statute.

Aside from that, the law also smacks of an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.

At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's your right to have those opinions. However, the Capitol Police, at least originally, disagreed.

While I doubt, absent any real disruption, she would actually be found guilty of the infractions described in the statute, it would be difficult to argue that it didn't rise to a level sufficient to allow a lawful arrest.

Frankly, I feel like people should do their sloganing, for all issues, outside of congress. It has no place there.

At any rate, you wanted an explanation for her arrest, there it is. The Capitol Police felt she was violating, or was attempting to violate, a federal statute.

One might want to consider the policy implications of requiring police to have full and perfect knowledge of a crime to be committed before being allowed to arrest.

At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sloganing has no place in Congress? That is absurd. Congress is where the laws that affect each and everyone of us are made. I don't know that "sloganing" has any other more effective place.

At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Marleen Suarez said...

Does anybody know if the wife of the Congressman who was removed for wearing a t-shirt saying "support our Troops" was arrested? I know she was politely asked to leave. Her husband held a press conference and said so. But was SHE arrested?

Both of these women had the right to wear those shirts. They were silent protests that were not disruptive. Like all of our troops doing their duty...Cindy Sheehan is a true American hero. The right wing pursuit of this women is absurd. She is a Mom who has had a tremendous loss and is doing something that is her American right to do. Of all places to have fredom of speech suppressed. How ironic. It is time for all Americans to stand behind the freedoms this woman is trying to exercise and stop letting her naysayers try to bully us.

At 9:18 AM, Blogger JJ said...

No, the wife of the Congressman WAS NOT arrested. Just Cindy.

At 9:23 AM, Blogger JJ said...

Here is a link to an article which talks about the incident:

At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't know that 'sloganing' has any other more effective place."

Which may be precisely why it's not permitted. Why should one person with a sign be allowed to 1) Disrupt the work of our elected representatives and 2) single-handedly influence policy?

If (2) isn't a result, then there's certainly no harm in proscribing it to make sure our elected representatives are not perpetually annoyed by the peanut gallery... and if (2) is a result, all the more reason for it to be disallowed.

The initial descriptions that I heard of the account vary substantially from Ms. Sheehan's (big surprise) and involve her disobeying a request to cover her propaganda.

But that's all extraneous.

What she did was arguably illegal and she faced the consequences. Fearless prediction: this "first amendment suit" that she speaks of will either not be filed or will be laughed out of court. Because it's ridiculous.

Everyone has a right to mourn. That right does not encompass the violation of constitutionally sound federal statutes (of which this is one).

At 8:58 PM, Anonymous MS said...

Anonymous - perhaps you have forgotten this is the United States of America. Every single person has a right to influence policy. Some have a direct line to our elected officials through their influence and checkbooks, others have only a sign (or a t-shirt.)

Also, I would hardly consider the seat that was assigned to an congresswoman as being the "peanut gallery". Are you seriously saying that we should restrict free speech in order to save some sensitive elected officials from the incredible distraction of a lone woman sitting in a balcony with a t-shirt that could probably not be read from the floor? How extraordinarily sensitive and easily distracted these elected officials must be. Perhaps we should forbid ALL citizens from contacting them in any way so they can go about their business.

I am sure you have heard conflicting accounts of the incident. I know what I did hear and that was an apology from the police chief. If they had proper justification for this arrest, there would be no basis for this hasty that admitted their wrongdoing.

Cindy Sheehan was attending the STOU address by invitation of an elected official. She had as much right to be there as any person in the room. She did not violate any federal statutes. She was wearing a t-shirt with a message on it that is, understandably, a great embarassment to the president. The last time I checked, THAT was certainly constitutionally sound and not a joke by any means.

There is something I still do not understand, anonymous, and perhaps you can explain this to me. Why does Cindy Sheehan generate such instense emotional response from the supporters of this administration's policies? What is it about this woman that scares them? Is it because, behind the flag-waving rhetoric and patriotic veil that they use to hide the tragedy that this administration is inflicting on our country, they see the truth in her cause? Do they see that she is a true patriot? Does that scare them so much? It must, or George Bush could look this women in the eye and justify his actions. As it is...I'm not sure how he even faces himself in the mirror every day.

At 6:35 PM, Blogger foxfangal said...

I really feel sorry for her son, he must be turning over in his grave by now saying, "Enough already Mom!!" I think Cindy Sheehan has worn out her welcome as a grieving Mom. I can't belive her son would be proud of his mother hanging out with persons like Hugo Chavez and a lowlife like Harry Belefonte, who both bad-mouth America, and our President.

And I do not believe for one minute that Cindy Sheehan would have kept her jacket on during Bush's speech, where such displays as her T-shirt are clearly innappropriate.

It's time for Cindy to go home, it's time for her to respect her son's honorable sacrifice, and let him and his memory truly rest in peace.

At 8:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think what you did was verry brave and you should get an award for that because not many people get to express there feelings like that. I hope every thing turns out good for you and im sorry about your son.

Kyla 16 Columbia Falls MT


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