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February 02, 2006

On Cindy Sheehan And Beverly Young And Free Speech

Now let me begin with the observation that I defended Cindy Sheehan's arrest on Tuesday, a position that I believe to be consistent with what I am about to say. I believe the arrest -- and the eviction of the more cooperative Mrs. Young -- were both legally and constitutionally defensible. After all, courts have long recognized that the government may impose legitimate time, place, and manner restrictions on speech without running afoul of the expansive language of the First Amendment. Try, for example, to engage in free speech about the guilt or innocence of a defendant in a courtroom during a trial -- you will find yourself in cuffs faster than you can say "contempt of court".

At the same time, I think the policy on political speech -- at least as regards t-shirts -- is absurd. So did someone on Capitol Hill -- the rule was changed, but no one told the cops.

Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and a congressman's wife from President Bush's State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with war messages.

"The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol," Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said in a statement late Wednesday.

"The policy and procedures were too vague," he added. "The failure to adequately prepare the officers is mine."

The extraordinary statement came a day after police removed Sheehan and Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young, R-Fla., from the visitors gallery Tuesday night. Sheehan was taken away in handcuffs before Bush's arrival at the Capitol and charged with a misdemeanor, while Young left the gallery and therefore was not arrested, Gainer said.

"Neither guest should have been confronted about the expressive T-shirts," Gainer's statement said.

As a result, charges have been droppped against the Ditch Bitch and apologies have been issued to both her and Mrs. Young. But I think the policy was defensible, despite the claims by some folks that the Supreme Court decision in Cohens v. California some 3 1/2 decades ago should have settled the matter. In that case, the offending profanity ("Fuck the Draft") had only been visible in the hallway -- Mr. Cohens had folded the jacket so it could not be seen prior to entering the courtroom. The justices noted that the expansive right to free speech might not have protected that expression in the courtroom, where it was more likely to disrupt the proceedings -- and one could analogize that ruling (and others expressly permitting time, place, and manner restrictions on speech) to the case at hand, where a shirt permissible in the Rotunda might be inappropriate in the Gallery, especially during a televised address to the nation.

But I think such the arrest was a bad idea -- as was the removal of Mrs. Young and at least one other individual. Captain Ed puts it very well, and I want to echo his position.

I suspect that CQ readers will disagree with me on this one, but I concur with Gainer. Neither woman should have been arrested or made to leave the gallery on the basis of their t-shirts, especially at a public event like the SOTU speech. I don't think that the two women had equivalent standing, nor do I think that Mrs. Young's t-shirt would have been as potentially distracting as Mrs. Sheehan's. However, the point is that as long as both women behaved themselves, their t-shirts would have had no disruptive effect on the speech. Yes, I know that there is a tradition of restraint in the gallery, but politicians of both parties make extensive use of those guest passes for political purposes during SOTU speeches. Every president in the television age put people up there that they used to emphasize major points of their speech, and no one barks about that exploitation of the gallery.

When I first heard that Sheehan had been arrested, the reports said that she had attempted to unfurl a banner in the gallery. That kind of action certainly would have justified the removal of Sheehan from the gallery but hardly qualified as a criminal act, especially under the amorphous terms of "unlawful conduct." Having to face charges for wearing a t-shift with a slogan on it is flat-out ridiculous. What laws does that "conduct" break? And since when have we become so fragile that the wearing of a protest t-shirt become so unsettling?

Both women should have reconsidered their wardrobe for the speech. However, a fashion crime should not equate to police action, and arresting someone for wearing a dumb t-shirt should not happen in America.

This is exactly right. While the mode of dress of these individuals is indicative of the breakdown of decorum that exists in contemporary society, the conduct did not rise to the level of the criminal. And while I have no doubt that Mrs. Sheehan was going to engage in a disruption of the speech (frankly, I think the Secret Service should have objected to the loony lefty's presence in the Gallery given her rhetoric and conduct), she had done nothing meriting suspicion (though I suppose the arrest could possibly be justified on the grounds of her failure to cooperate with security).

Mark in Mexico notes this little detail about Mrs. Sheehan's missive to her fellow moonbats.

She says, "I am speechless with fury at what happened . . ." and then proceeds to speak for another 18 paragraphs, 57 sentences.

She says, "I did not wear it (a protest T-shirt under her jacket) to be disruptive, or I would have unzipped my jacket during George's speech." She could not have unzipped it during the president's speech because she was arrested 45 minutes before the speech started.

She says that as she was being fingerprinted, "That's when the enormity of my loss hit me. I have lost my son. I have lost my First Amendment rights." Her son Casey was killed April 4, 2004 in Iraq. Her activities, from the protests outside the Crawford ranch all last summer to last week's appearence with Hugo Chavez and his stooge Harry Belafonte where she called George Bush "the greatest terrorist in the world" and "10 times worse than bin Laden" have been well documented. But, she just then (last night) realized her loss?

My response to Mark is this -- the Ditch Bitch is a self-obsessed narcissist who never learned a basic lesson taught in every astronomy class (an understood by mentally healthy individuals) -- "the Earth revolves around the Sun, not around Uranus".

On the othe hand, maybe some time in jail would have allowed Mama Moonbat to get the psychological help she really needs. She is, after all, a rather sad, pathetic character who has clearly lost contact with realit following the death of her son. Folks on the Left should be ashamed to use her as they do.

UPDATE: My buddy Hube over at Colossus of Rhodey points out that Sheehan as much as admits that the purpose of the shirt WAS, in fact, to grab the cameras and thus engage in a political demonstration in the Gallery. He also asks a great question.

Well, it seems Cindy Sheehan wanted to make "a scene" at the State of the Union Address after all. In her latest Daily Kos entry, she admits as much, although some have zeroed in on the fact that she was "merely hot" and just wanted some relief (she thus exposed the "protest" T-shirt she had on). While the Kos entry does mention she "was warm from climbing 3 flights of stairs" and hence unzipped her jacket, she goes on to note

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.

The debate over free expression is a good one here. Some have argued that Sheehan's 1st Amendment rights were violated (she herself says she is filing a lawsuit ... hey, if she didn't it wouldn't be America after all, eh?) whereas others have stated that it wasn't the time and place to protest. If, for example, Sheehan was allowed to wear such a shirt for that event, why wouldn't she be "within her rights" to take the microphone from President Bush to rebut him after each point he made? Where is the line drawn? And is a dress code a violation of free speech rights in this case?

An interesting issue indeed.

OTHERS WRITING:
Michelle Malkin, Say Anything, Generation Why?, GOP and College, The Jawa Report, Oblogatory Anecdotes, A Blog for All, Cam Edwards, Patterico, Tammy Bruce, Sister Toldjah



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» Surfette links with: Beyond "sorry": Cindy Sheehan, Beverly Young and your closet, on February 03, 2006, 06:32 PM
Excerpt: Oops -- sorry. That's the message Capitol Hill police delivered this afternoon in an official apology to two women who were bounced from President Bush's

Comments on On Cindy Sheehan And Beverly Young And Free Speech

Why is it that I'm not surprised that you are making disparaging remarks about Cindy Sheehan. What is it about her that makes all of you so angry. Is it because she refuses to hide the grief she feels over the death of her son? Is it because she is trying to channel this grief in an effort to ask President Bush exactly what it is that her son and 2,245 other service members have died for? What's most discouraging is that 80% of you have never served their country as a member of the armed forces, yet you are all experts on armed conflict. You seem to think that dieing for ones country is a noble cause as long as its not any of you or your relatives.

As a 6 year veteran of the U.S. Army none of you have the right to criticize anyone who has served or the families of those who died in this conflict.

So many of you say that you support our service men and women yet, you are the first ones to attack them and show complete disrespect for their service if they disagree with you.

If your so patriotic I invite you to volunteer like just as Casey sheehan did as well as myself so that you to can serve your country.

|| Posted by Kenji Matsumoto, February 3, 2006 08:24 AM ||

Why Kenji, are the only Vets allowed to speak liberals?

I served my time in the Army, honorable discharge, yet you say I no right to say that I believe Cindy is a moonbat?

So, what your saying is, the time you spent in the Military, was somehow more honorable and better than my time?

I am going to say this, and take heed, I SERVED MY COUNTRY NOT ME!!

It took me a little while to understand that. My devotion to my Country CAN'T be questioned, but my day to day activities can be and should be.

NO ONE is above being questioned for what they do, no matter what loss they have laid at the alter of Freedom.

I grieve for Cindy who lost a Son, and even though I did not know Casey, he was still a brother to me, due to my time in the Army. Any Soldier in the military past/present/future is my Brother/Sister, and I will feel their loss, because I tread some of the same ground.

This does not give me a moral high ground, as you claim and liberals scream.

I will NOT condone what Cindy has done, and I will say it loudly. If you don't like it, then I don't care. I am allowed to say my opinion thanks to the Constitution and it's Amendments.

You know that yuckie thing most liberals truly want to through out, but only hide behind when it is truly convenient for them.

So you may have served your country, but that doesn't mean you are above questioning.

Bush served, and by your post, liberals should never try to question him, yet they do it all the time.

Gotta love them double standards liberals live by..

Do what I say, not what I do...

|| Posted by Scubachris, February 3, 2006 11:46 AM ||

1) Kenji -- I have no problem with the woman being in grief. I have a problem with her devaluing her son by acting as if he was forcibly abducted and made to go to Iraq against his will for a cause he did not believe in. the evidence all shows that the opposite is true.

2) I tried to join repeatedly -- they would not take me because of an injury sustained in a car accident. My goal had been to follow my father in a Navy career.

3) No right to criticize, Kenji? When did the members of the military become unquestionable, especially to you unabashed leftoids? I thought they were all mad baby-killers to you folks.

4) I respect Casey's service -- it is his mother I don't respect.

5) When a leftoid like you complains about disrespecting a veteran's service, let me throw back in your face the service of a veteran that you clowns continually disrespect -- GEORGE W. BUSH.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 3, 2006 08:04 PM ||

Scubachris: How do you seve your country, and the cause of democracy, by fighting in an ill concieved war in Iraq? No one is claiming the initial invasion of Afghanistan was ill conceived - that's where Osama was at the time (not Iraq).

Bush served??? He deliberately did not serve. His daddy got him a cushy ari national guard position which he skipped out on.

Bush and his pop are great friends with the binLadens of Saudi Arabia, and all their oil to which he is addicted. Sheehan knows this, and her son paid dearly.

|| Posted by kilroy, February 3, 2006 10:57 PM ||

Actually, he did serve in the TexasAir national Guard, and the records show that he completed his service and was honorably discharged. He did not skip out on his service, and even sought to be assigned to Vietnam at one point.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 3, 2006 11:07 PM ||

While we have a president standing before congress and the world, lying and spinning, thus disgracing our country, the flag and christianity, there are those upset by a woman asking the cogent question, it is obvious that, as some have suggested, the gene pool has been contaminated.

If you don't get it, well that just reinforces the premise.

p.s.---to use the word honorably in the same sentence as Bush does not compute.

|| Posted by martha m., February 4, 2006 02:27 AM ||

Actually, Martha, the disgraces to this country are the folks like you. Let me guess -- you think Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton are great and honorable public servants whose lives bring glory to the US.

Thank God that no man will ever willingly get close enough to you to allow your debased genes to continue on.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 4, 2006 08:39 AM ||

Kenji, Scub, Kilroy & Martha spewing the olde talking points still. "ill conceived" (Two nations, of 50,000,000 people are out of terrorist control. WE SHOULD HAVE DONE THE SAME IN EARLY WWII TO REDUCE THE MILLIONS OF DEAD BACK THEN.) "lying & spinning"?....you Libs have a short track mind. Iraq's latest conflict was only left over from the early 90's - it was never finished! Remember Clinton had BinLaden served up on a silver platter before 9/11 and let him go many times. THEY declared war on us in 1998! Your own Democratic Congress Woman set up the rules not allowing the services to talk to each other about uncovered information, and had the gaul to sit in on the hearings afterward. Maybe she should be held responsible for 9/11?

I hear the grumblings of a former weapons inspector coming forth with info on the location of where the WMD's went to & he is going to run as a DEM. That should really piss ya off when that one comes out officially. The libs will trash him though.

If you can't understand that we are already in WWIII, then you are a sorry lot. Being that Christianity was brought up, and the US is 80-90% Christian, you better undersatand that we all have a bullseye on our backs when dealing with these sick SOB's. Yes, we lost 2270 military (JMJ) history will show that many thousands more men were saved by the way this war is fought. Look on a map at were the conflicts are in Irag - it is a small area. History already showed us how many military MILLIONS have died in previous wars, allowing us to be here today in the USA. Allowing Sheehan to spew her personal polital views at the cost of using and disgracing her son's death.

|| Posted by JimBD, February 4, 2006 09:38 AM ||
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