ACLU Sues Law Enforcement for Shielding President Bush From Protestors

January 15, 2008

Group Calls Action Unconstitutional and Discriminatory

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

ALBUQUERQUE - The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of New Mexico filed a lawsuit in federal court today on behalf of several New Mexico residents and advocacy organizations who were made to stand more than 150 yards away from the site of a fundraiser being attended by the president as they peacefully protested the views of the administration, while a group of people expressing support for President Bush were allowed to stand only a few feet from the fundraiser site.

“People who disagree with the president have as much a right to be heard as those who wish to praise him," said Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU.  “The unequal treatment of the ACLU’s clients violates their constitutional right to free speech.”

On August 27, 2007, President Bush was in New Mexico to attend a fundraiser for Senator Pete Domenici at the home of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque Mayor Larry Abraham. In anticipation of the presidential motorcade, several individuals, including the ACLU’s clients, gathered along the street leading to the mayor’s house holding signs expressing their disapproval of the Iraq War.

According to the ACLU’s lawsuit, law enforcement officials forced the peaceful protestors to stand 150 yards away from the motorcade route, on the opposite end of the street from where the president would arrive, where they were blocked from the president’s view by a wall of parked police cars and officers on horseback. A group of people holding a banner reading “God Bless George Bush! We Pray for You!” was allowed to stand only a few feet from the fundraiser site, in plain view of the motorcade.

“Law enforcement officers gave Bush supporters front row seats and made those who disagreed with the president stand behind a wall of cars and horses,” said Peter Simonson, ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director. “Officials went to great lengths to shield the president from viewing the people who disagreed with him, which just isn’t how a free society should operate.”

The New Mexico lawsuit comes in the midst of an ongoing challenge by the ACLU to a White House policy that unlawfully excludes individuals perceived to be critical of the administration from public events where President Bush is present. The policy is laid out in the official Presidential Advance Manual, which includes a section called “Preparing for Demonstrators.”  In that section, the manual directs members of the presidential advance team working at the site of a presidential appearance to “work with the Secret Service and have them 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.”

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jeanne Pahls, Rebecca Wilson, Alma Rosa Silva Banuelos, Carter Bundy, Merimee Moffitt, Laura Lawrence, Stuart T. “Terry” Riley, Mary Lou “Mitzi” Kraft, Jason Call, and the organizations Stop the War Machine and CODEPINK Women for Peace, Albuquerque chapter.

Attorneys in the lawsuit are Catherine Crump, Chris Hansen and Josh Hsu of the national ACLU and George Bach of the ACLU of New Mexico.

The ACLU’s complaint is available online at:
www.aclu.org/freespeech/protest/33653lgl20080115.html

For more information about the ACLU’s work to protect free speech at presidential events, go to:
www.aclu.org/freespeech/protest/protest_president.html

 

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