Independence Day 2004

It’s July 4, 2004 on the grounds of the State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia.  President Bush is giving a speech on something or other.  In attendance are Nicole and Jeffrey Rank, registered Republicans from Corpus Christi, Texas.  Like others that day, they had obtained tickets prior to the event and were admitted to the capitol grounds without issue.

During the speech, the Ranks removed their outer shirts, revealing t-shirts sporting a red circle with a diagonal line through it.  Inside the circle was “Bush”, effectively symbolizing “No Bush”.  On the back of their shirts were the phrases “Regime Change Begins at Home” and “Love America, Hate Bush”.  According to the ACLU article,

“…the couple stood peacefully on the public grounds with the rest of the audience, two men believed to be working for the Secret Service or White House approached the Ranks and demanded that they remove or cover their t-shirts. When the couple refused, the officials instructed city police to arrest Jeff and Nicole, causing them to be removed from the Capitol grounds in handcuffs, jailed for one to two hours and charged with trespassing. Nicole Rank was also temporarily suspended from her work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “

Apparently they were escorted in handcuffs from the grounds while America The Beautiful was playing in the background.

Attorneys for the ACLU in both Charleston, WV and Pittsburgh, PA took the case and filed a lawsuit against the US Secret Service as well as against a White House department.

Fast forward to August 16, 2007.  Both parties settled the lawsuit against the US government for $80,000.  The government, of course, admitted no wrong-doing and the taxpayers got stuck with yet another bill.

Take this as a warning.  Our First Amendment rights of  free speech and assembly are gradually being eroded, often in the name of “national security.”

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