Remember the two people kicked out of President Bush’s Independence Day speech in West Virginia for wearing protest t-shirts in 2004? Nicole and Jeffery Rank, now of Corpus Christi, Texas, were charged with trespassing.
But they were invited to attend the speech.
According to an Associated Press story via MSNBC, a judge dismissed the trespassing charge. The couple sued Bush for violating their First Amendment rights. Bush’s lawyers settled the case, agreeing to pay the couple $80,000.
“This settlement is a real victory not only for our clients but for the First Amendment,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of West Virginia. “As a result of the Ranks’ courageous stand, public officials will think twice before they eject peaceful protesters from public events for exercising their right to dissent.”
In the course of the suit it was discovered that the official advance manual for the Bush White House urged removing dissenters from speech audiences, so the original claims that the action was just overzealous local officials was refuted. One wonders if the advance manual has been changed.
When asked if are glad they decided stand up for their beliefs, both answered “absolutely” without hesitation.
“We have thoroughly not enjoyed our 15 minutes [of fame]. It’s cost us personally and professionally,” Jeff Rank said. “The thing that we’re fighting for, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, is just too important to this country to lay down on something like this.”
The First Amendment may have been wounded, but it’s still alive.
- The original complaint in the case, from the national ACLU website (.pdf format)
- Editorial supporting the Ranks’ position, from the Bryan-College Station, Texas, Eagle (home of Texas A&M)
- Charleston Gazette (West Virginia) with longer story and more complete explanations
Tip of the old scrub brush to blueollie.