Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan says she intends to sue over her arrest last night just prior to President Bush’s State of the Union address, as she displayed a shirt proclaiming the number of dead American soldiers from the ongoing conflict in Iraq.
“I am so upset and sore it is hard to think straight,” Sheehan writes in her online diary. “I have some lawyers looking into filing a First Amendment lawsuit against the government for what happened tonight. I will file it. It is time to take our freedoms and our country back. I don’t want to live in a country that prohibits any person, whether he/she has paid the ultimate price for that country, from wearing, saying, writing, or telephoning any negative statements about the government. That’s why I am going to take my freedoms and liberties back. That’s why I am not going to let Bushco take anything else away from me … or you.”
Sheehan was taken into custody shortly after unzipping her jacket, revealing her T-shirt, which had the message, “2245 Dead. How many more?”
She says a Capitol police officer spotted the message, and yelled, “Protester.”
“He then ran over to me, hauled me out of my seat and roughly (with my hands behind my back) shoved me up the stairs. I said something like ‘I’m going, do you have to be so rough?’”
She continued: “I was never told that I couldn’t wear that shirt into the Congress. I was never asked to take it off or zip my jacket back up. If I had been asked to do any of those things, I would have, and written about the suppression of my freedom of speech later. I was immediately, and roughly (I have the bruises and muscle spasms to prove it) hauled off and arrested for ‘unlawful conduct.’”
Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq and has since called terrorists “freedom fighters,” said while she was not looking to cause any disturbance, she did wear the shirt “to make a statement.”
“The press knew I was going to be there and I thought every once in a while they would show me and I would have the shirt on. I did not wear it to be disruptive, or I would have unzipped my jacket during George’s speech. If I had any idea what happens to people who wear shirts that make the neocons uncomfortable that I would be arrested … maybe I would have, but I didn’t.”
Sheehan got some support from Fox News’ legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano.
“Silently wearing a T-shirt is not against the law,” he told host John Gibson. “She had every right to wear it.”
Sheehan’s threat of a lawsuit is already being blasted by some news watchers.
In a letter addressed to Sheehan from Regina Robertson of Lubbock, Texas, Robertson writes: “Voice your opinion in the manner which the First Amendment was intended, not by treating your home country as the enemy. … I am offended daily by the likes of you Cindy Sheehan, and your publicity stunts that have embarrassed America for too long. I am exercising my First Amendment right here, by sending this out there, hoping you will be intelligent enough to read it. I am voicing my opinion, but I am not denying you Cindy Sheehan, yours. I simply want you and all your liberal friends to respect the freedom you have been given by the blood shed not only by the 2,245 in Iraq, but by thousands and thousands more in the past. And I simply want you to leave my country. (Is that so wrong?)”
In addition to Sheehan, Beverly Young, the wife of U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R- Fla., was also ejected from the House gallery during the State of the Union address for wearing a shirt that read, “Support the Troops – Defending Our Freedom.”
Today on the House floor, Rep. Young blasted his wife’s arrest.
“Because she had on a shirt that someone didn’t like that said support our troops, she was kicked out of this gallery,” he said, as he held up the shirt. “Shame, shame.”
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