Once again, it appears free speech may be the victim of official White House policy. In the rather un-grand tradition of shielding the president from dissenting opinions, several New Mexicans were recently made to stand 150 yards - and behind a blockade of police cars and horses - away from the presidential motorcade route while Bush supporters wielding a "God Bless George Bush! We Pray for You!" sign got right up close.
Like the Ranks in West Virginia who were escorted out of a Bush speech for their anti-Bush T-shirts, or Leslie Weise and Alex Young who were kicked out of another presidential event in Denver for the "No Blood for Oil" sticker on their car, it's likely that the treatment of the New Mexico protestors was dictated by the official Presidential Advance Manual.
This manual encourages people on the ground at the site of a presidential appearance to "ask the local police department to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in view of the event site or motorcade route" and suggests "rally squads" of supporters to "use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform."
Today the ACLU filed a complaint in federal court on behalf of six of the New Mexico protestors. The Constitution guarantees us all the right to express our views and protects us from being treated differently because of them. Policies - from the White House, local law enforcement agencies or otherwise - that dictate different treatment for different opinions is unconstitutional, and we hope this case proves so once and for all.
You can learn more about the case from blogger Chris Weigant's interview with ACLU Staff Attorney Catherine Crump on HuffingtonPost.