How is it fair that Bush supporters can wave signs and hang all over the president, while protestors are segregated in areas far from the president and away from the cameras? Is this just another attempt to supress any dissent?
WASHINGTON ? The American Civil Liberties Union (search) asked the federal courts Tuesday to prevent the U.S. Secret Service (search) from keeping anti-Bush protesters far away from presidential appearances while allowing supporters to display their messages up close.
The civil liberties group filed the lawsuit in federal court in Pennsylvania on behalf of four advocacy organizations that claimed that the Secret Service forced them into protest zones (search) or other areas where they could not be seen by President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney or be noticed by the media covering their visits.
"The pattern we found was at presidential and vice presidential appearances, protesters were restricted to areas where they were out of sight, out of earshot and often out of mind," said Witold J. Walczak, legal director for the ACLU's Greater Pittsburgh chapter.
"Protecting our nation's leaders from harm is important. Protecting our nation's leaders from dissent is unconstitutional."
Said Secret Service spokesman John Gill: "The Secret Service does not comment on pending litigation. However, we have a long-standing policy of recognizing the constitutionally-protected right of the public to demonstrate and voice their views to their elected officials."
The ACLU complaint lists several incidents where protesters were forced to assemble blocks away from where the president or vice president was speaking, while supporters of the administration's policy could hold their signs up in front of the building. They cited examples across the country, including Philadelphia; Columbia, S.C.; Phoenix; Stockton, Calif.; and St. Louis.
The plaintiffs are the National Organization for Women (search); United for Peace and Justice (search), an anti-war group; ACORN (search), an advocacy organization for low and moderate-income families; and USAction (search), an advocacy group that supports universal health care and better public education and opposes the Iraq war and Bush's tax cuts.