Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cindy Sheehan Arrested at State of Union Address Anti-War T-Shirt Not Allowed

Cindy Sheehan was invited by a member of Congress and therefore allowed to attend Bush's State of the Union address, but, as this article reports, she had the gall to wear an anti-war t-shirt.

Arriving moments before the speech began, Sheehan, whose son was a soldier killed in Iraq and who is now renowned for her vigil outside the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas, was spotted by cops just a moment before Bush stepped to the podium. They ordered her to cover her t-shirt and then arrested her when she refused.She was reportedly hand-cuffed, although in the photos, it appears the cuffs may have been removed before she exited the building.

One may experience conflicting reactions as one digests this news. First, it appears such a blatantly unconstitutional trampling of free speech that it can seem amazing the police would dare do it. Is it the latest, outrageous example of our civil rights' disappearing before our eyes? However, the police in this case [...Continued as first comment...]

5 Thoughts:

Blogger Bspot said...

may be empowered by rules applying specifically to the State of the Union address. Although it is now routinely televised, the address has been a ritualized interaction between two of our three branches of government for over two centuries, and it is one in which the President is required by the Constitution to address not the public at large but the members of Congress. Perhaps there are rules, particular to this cermonial event, aimed at stopping every Senator, Representative and their guests from waving placards and wearing slogan-covered clothing.

This begins to seem slightly more reasonable. At least, in this light, last night's police action is not indicative of an ominous trend but just enforcement of a longstanding rule.

Still, one may question the rule itself. Longstanding or not, perhaps it should be challenged and the Supreme Court should decide whether it is constitutional. Certainly it would distract TV audiences from the president's speech, as the cameras panned across an audience replete with signs and slogan-adorned suits. But, as already pointed out, the speech is meant to be an interaction between him and Congress, not the public. Why not let members of Congress exhibit their protest slogans in front of him? As our elected representatives, it's pretty important that their rights to convey protest in any reasonable manner be unrestricted.

Meanwhile, it reminds us of the dangerously unhealthy context in which this is taking place: note that Cindy Sheehan was also stopped from speaking in New York City, by police using a technical formality as pretext. See the Village Voice article on that wrongful police action.

She and other activists were arrested in September for protesting outside the White House, despite the fact that such protests have been routine for decades. In this

And don't forget that at Bush rallies during his '04 presidential campaign, his Secret Service agents routinely, and absolutely illegally, arrested protesters who were not even being disruptive. In one reported case, two were arrested who had no signs or slogans showing whatsoever, but who had been seen arriving in a car that bore an anti-Bush bumper sticker.

As for Cindy, her latest crime reportedly carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison. More of us may have to risk arrest by protesting outside her jail cell, if some judge is foolish enough (or smart enough?) to help create yet another attention-grabbing anti-Bush news story by putting this mother behind bars.

In any case, kudos to Representative Lynn Woolsey, Democrat of California, for inviting Sheehan to the address in the first place.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 6:03:00 AM  
Blogger pawlr said...

Cindy Sheehan's problem is that as a neophyte to the game of power politics, she has successfully been stamped as a fruitcake based on quotes magnified and taken out of context to turn her into the new Jane Fonda. Very sad. The Right wanted people to think anything about her, anything else to distract from the essential truth that SHE LOST A SON. And it worked. She played right into their hands by making a lot of injudicious comments that gave the Right a bagful of ammo to use against her. That plus her voice unfortunately sounds like a homeless person begging for change on the subway. Ouch.

Another reason why silent vigils are often preferable to a dozen interviews. Dignity, of the Buddhist monk variety.

But she's not dead yet. She's obviously utterly committed to her struggle, down to the bitter end, and persistence goes a long way. She'll go to Gitmo if she has to.

And so lets do Cindy a favor and take a longer view. To bspot's point, populist movements often emerge from the "free-speech" crusades of political opponents eager to challenge the laws and unwritten codes of rituals and formal spectacles. This happened in both the french revolution, and the civil rights era.

Free speech appeals can be especially potent in America where it is seen as a core value - enchanced by its special status in the 1st Amendment. Legally it has struggled but it does resonate powerfully from a PR standpoint.

What will backfire is if the Left makes all kinds of the wrong hay out of this and exaggerates just those qualities of Sheehan's that the Right wants them to. Better to quietly pursue this in the courts and don't make a big scene, and stick to the PR aspects of free speech - don't make the same mistake twice of turning Sheehan into a symbol.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 8:55:00 AM  
Blogger Demotiki said...

Cindy may be a fool, but the capitol police are even bigger fools. I wonder how they will explain the fact that they arrested Cindy for exactly the same crime they didn't arrest that GOP Congressman's wife for? Not to mention that she evidently dropped more than a few "f" bombs on the officers involved while Cindy was polite.

Thursday, February 02, 2006 7:37:00 AM  
Blogger pawlr said...

Now wait.. in no way did I say that Cindy Sheehan a 'fool', just to set the record straight.

Thursday, February 02, 2006 1:54:00 PM  
Blogger Bspot said...

Hey Pawlr,

What were those injudicious comments by Cindy that you say the right blew out of proportion? I missed the news on that.

Monday, February 06, 2006 5:25:00 AM  

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