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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

ACLU Files Federal Suit Over Shielding of Protestors at Bush Visit to Los Ranchos NM

Albuquerque police car and mounted unit block road to Bush event  in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque on 8/27/07 (Photo by Terry Riley)

From the ACLU:
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.

Demonstrators line up at last summer's protest in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque in the North Valley (Photo by Terry Riley)

“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 defendants are the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners, the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department, the City of Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Police Department and certain John/Jane Does.

More Info:

• The ACLU’s complaint is available online here (pdf).

• Click for more information about the ACLU’s work to protect free speech at presidential events and see today's post about the suit on the ACLU blog.

• Check out ChrisWeigant.com for a post about this issue that includes some great photos of CodePink from last summer's protest at Bush's Los Ranchos visit. His report is cross-posted at The Huffington Post, where Chris is a contributor.

Daily Kos has a diary by the ACLU today on this matter.

• See our previous post on Bush's visit to Los Ranchos with photos from the protest by Terry Riley, as well as links to videos of local TV coverage, newspaper stories and more.

January 15, 2008 at 01:01 PM in Civil Liberties, Justice, Local Politics, Peace | Permalink


I sure hope they are successful in their suit. Its way past time to put a stop to the marginalizing and trampling of rights of those who disagree.

Posted by: VP | Jan 15, 2008 4:38:10 PM

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