Thursday, February 02, 2006
WASHINGTON - Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, right, on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and a congressman's wife from '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. Gainer added that he was asking the U.S. attorney's office to drop the charge against Sheehan. The statement also said he apologized to the Youngs and "share the department's plans for avoiding this in the future. A similar message has been left with Mrs. Sheehan," Gainer said.
A foreign-born American citizen who was the guest of Rep. Alcee Hastings, left (news, bio, voting record), D-Fla., also was taken by police from the gallery just above the House floor, Hastings said Wednesday. The congressman met with Gainer and House Speaker , R-Ill., about the incident. "I'd like to find out more information," Hastings said in an interview, identifying the man only as being from Broward County in Florida. "He is a constituent of mine. I invited him proudly."
Sheehan's T-shirt alluded to the number of soldiers killed in : "2245 Dead. How many more?" Capitol Police charged her with a misdemeanor for violating the District of Columbia's code against unlawful or disruptive conduct on any part of the Capitol grounds, a law enforcement official said.
Young's shirt had this message: "Support the Troops -- Defending Our Freedom."
The two women appeared to have offended tradition if not the law, according to several law enforcement and congressional officials. 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.
Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas -- lawfirm webpage: www.haigler.info -- political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com
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