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Cindy Sheehan Shut Up By DC Police

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Our federal government is not allowed to prohibit a citizen from being able to express themselves or their opinions, especially with respect to how they feel about our government. As a matter of fact, we felt so strongly about this that it was demanded that an amendment be made to our constitution "codifying" this restriction:
Amendment I.
Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech.
Seems pretty straightforward to me. Congress cannot create any law depriving Americans of their ability to speak their minds. Now that we've established this, can someone explain to me why I would read this? From this Associated Press article:

[Cindy] Sheehan, who was invited to attend the speech by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., was charged with demonstrating in the Capitol building, said Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider. The charge was later changed to unlawful conduct, Schneider said. Both charges are misdemeanors.

Sheehan was taken in handcuffs from the Capitol to police headquarters a few blocks away.

So, what did Cindy Sheehan, acclaimed "menace to society," do to provoke the wrath of the DC police force? Again, from the article:

Schneider said Sheehan had worn a T-shirt with an anti-war slogan to the speech and covered it up until she took her seat. Police warned her that such displays were not allowed, but she did not respond, the spokeswoman said.

Not allowed...? Why is it so hard for our government to understand that they have no authority to create laws designed to force Americans to shut up? I say, "Good for you, Cindy Sheehan!"


Blogger Mark said...

Why is it so hard for our government to understand that they have no authority to create laws designed to force Americans to shut up?

You just don't get it. It was the fashion police who arrested Sheehan. There's nothing in the Constitution that permits you to wear an ugly T-shirt.



5:33 PM  
Blogger Britt Howard said...

This is one of the few times that I will likely disagree with you.
I am no apologist for Bush. In fact I often harp on the abuse of FISA, the Patriot Act, and the huge deficits brought on us by an alleged conservative. I will admit that I was in favor of the war eventhough I cringe and the botched occupation phase. I split with many Libertarians on that. I see WWIII potential if Israel retaliates with nukes against a WMD attack from a neighbor sworn to push the Israelis' into the sea. A radioactive wasteland in the Middle East would lead to the devestation of the world's economies and war over what oil was still in production.

We now know that Sheehan's charges were dropped and the police apologized to her and the Republican that wore a pro-Iraq war shirt and was also kicked out.

I am normally strong on the right to protest but, the State of the Union is a forum with a specific purpose. That being the President reporting to the people his perception of the state of our country and his plans for the future. In order for this message to be best conveyed, immediate bickering and protests should be avoided. The opposition party gets a response but, even that is done in a dignified manner and is done after the President's message is put forth. An opposing view is offered and there are many other opportunities for Cindy to protest the speech or try to get arrested for the umteenth time.
Let's face it. Cindy Sheehan doesn't give a rats behind about the freedom of speech. She wants to get arrested. What she really craves is the publicity. Here we have a woman that could have been an articulate spokeperson for those opposed to the invasion of Iraq. Although I think they miss the big picture, I certainly understand why people opposed the invasion. Their line of reasoning has some logic to it. Sheehan however, has become clownish. She doesn't fight for a cause anymore. She fights for publicity.

In my opinion, a chaotic bickering festival during the State of the Union would be a disservice to the country. I want to hear what any president has to say and judge accordingly. If I wanted to watch people scream eachother down or wear shocking clothing then I might as well watch Maury Povich or Jerry Springer reruns.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Don Bangert said...

Britt, while I agree with you that the State of the Union event is not the best venue for protest, I must disagree with your position of a total ban on dissent at this forum. If government were allowed to quash dissent at the biggest events, they would eventually argue to quash dissent at ALL events.

It turns out that this whole affair was a big mistake, anyways. I ran across this article that quotes the Capitol Police Chief as saying:

"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."

Sheehan and Young were wrongly ejected. In light of this new information, I must conclude that the government does understand its prohibition against depriving us our right of expression.

At the end of the article that I cite above was this blurb about gallery rules and what is expected of the guests:

By custom, the annual address is to be a dignified affair in which the president reports on the state of the nation. Guests in the gallery who wear shirts deemed political in nature have, in past years, been asked to change or cover them up.

Rules dealing mainly with what people can bring and telling them to refrain from reading, writing, smoking, eating, drinking, applauding or taking photographs are outlined on the back of gallery passes given to tourists every day.

However, State of the Union guests don't receive any guidelines, according to Deputy House Sergeant at Arms Kerri Hanley. "You would assume that if you were coming to an event like the State of the Union address you would be dressed in appropriate attire," she said.

The guidelines (that were not issued) impress upon guests the general rules that should be followed during the State of the Union address, but none are legally binding. If you're being disruptive, then you should be ejected. However, if you're being respectful of others attending the event, then you should be allowed to stay.

Respect for the speaker and personal principles determine the level of attire each participant chooses to wear, I guess.

7:56 AM  

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