Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cindy Sheehan and Federal Law

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Cindy Sheehan, as soon as she posted bail, issued a letter to Michael Moore's website in which she decried her treatment at the hands of the Capitol Police. Here is an excerpt:

Wow, I get hauled out of the People's House because I was, "Protesting."

I was never told that I couldn't wear that shirt into the Congress. I was never asked to take it off or zip my jacket back up. If I had been asked to do any of those things...I would have, and written about the suppression of my freedom of speech later. I was immediately, and roughly (I have the bruises and muscle spasms to prove it) hauled off and arrested for "unlawful conduct."

After I had my personal items inventoried and my fingers printed, a nice Sgt. came in and looked at my shirt and said, "2,245, huh? I just got back from there."

I told him that my son died there. That's when the enormity of my loss hit me. I have lost my son. I have lost my First Amendment rights. I have lost the country that I love. Where did America go? I started crying in pain.

What did Casey die for? What did the 2,244 other brave young Americans die for? What are tens of thousands of them over there in harm's way for still? For this? I can't even wear a shirt that has the number of troops on it that George Bush and his arrogant and ignorant policies are responsible for killing.

Yes, Cindy it is true that you cannot do what you did inside the Capitol and not because Bush or the neocons say so, but because Federal law says so. US Code Title 40, Subtitle II, Part B, Chapter 51, 5104, section e-2 says:

(2) Violent entry and disorderly conduct.— An individual or group of individuals may not willfully and knowingly—

(A) enter or remain on the floor of either House of Congress or in any cloakroom or lobby adjacent to that floor, in the Rayburn Room of the House of Representatives, or in the Marble Room of the Senate, unless authorized to do so pursuant to rules adopted, or an authorization given, by that House;

(B) enter or remain in the gallery of either House of Congress in violation of rules governing admission to the gallery adopted by that House or pursuant to an authorization given by that House;

(C) with the intent to disrupt the orderly conduct of official business, enter or remain in a room in any of the Capitol Buildings set aside or designated for the use of either House of Congress or a Member, committee, officer, or employee of Congress or either House of Congress;

(D) utter loud, threatening, or abusive language, or engage in disorderly or disruptive conduct, at any place in the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings with the intent to impede, disrupt, or disturb the orderly conduct of a session of Congress or either House of Congress, or the orderly conduct in that building of a hearing before, or any deliberations of, a committee of Congress or either House of Congress;

(E) obstruct, or impede passage through or within, the Grounds or any of the Capitol Buildings;

(F) engage in an act of physical violence in the Grounds or any of the Capitol Buildings; or

(G) parade, demonstrate, or picket in any of the Capitol Buildings.

I will allow that perhaps she could have been told to cover the shirt or she would have been removed. However even though she says she would have, I am betting she would have refused just to illicit the arrest so she could launch into another tirade over lost liberties, etc. Also, even if she covers it up then, what's to say she would not unzip the jacket later in the speech or even attempt to disrupt it by standing up and drawing attention to herself. Based on the account she gave, it sounds like the Capitol Police are on the lookout for any protesters and restrictions are pretty tight in respect to that. The statute is clear that disruptions and protests inside that Capitol are prohibited. This would appear to be the case whether it is wearing a shirt which carries a protest message or raising the possibility of an even greater potential disruption at some point during the speech. For all the whining we hear about following the law, Cindy seems to want to ignore relavant Federal law when it applies to her attempt to grandstand on national television during a Constitutionally mandated event.

Cindy picks up on a common theme from the left and that is the suppression of civil liberties. She also goes for the sympathy line over how much she has lost, not just her son mind you, but her rights and her country as well. Speaking only for myself, I can tell you losing my child would rank well above losing anything else I might have and I would never go as far as to equate it with losing my 1st Amendment rights or my country, none of which, in reality, are actually happening. Perhaps I am being harsh, but I have zero respect for a person who would use their child's death as a vehicle for some kind of misguided politcal agenda. I have no problem with her protesting the war and even doing so because she lost her son in it. The problem is she is not engaging in the debate on any level of reality. Cozying up the Hugo Chavez, saying that New Orleans is occupied by Federal troops, screaming that the war is about Israel and oil, and saying America is not worthy dying for clearly puts her outside of the much talked about "mainstream" of average American thought. There are ways to carry out effective protests which actually move the debate and honor your fallen loved one. Cindy Sheehan has yet to figure that out.

Update #1: The St. Petersburg Times is reporting that, Beverly Young, wife of Republican Represenative, C.W. Bill Young, was also removed from the gallery for "protesting" Mrs. Young was wearing a T-shirt which said "Support the Troops-Defending our Freedom" According to the article she was told by Capitol Police officers that wearing the T-shirt was tatamount to a protest.

Basically the Capitol Police will remove anyone wearing a T-shirt with a message on it regardless of party, allegiance, or stance on the war. This is further evidence that the Capitol Police were operating within the normal scope of their procedures for asking Sheehan to leave. There is in an inconsistency in the fact Young was not arrested but Sheehan was, however, I think this quells any notion that 1st Amendment rights are being suppressed and the President is taking out his critics using security forces.

Update #2: Via, a picture of Cindy Sheehan being "roughly" removed from the gallery:

Seems to be one hand on her upper arm as she is holding her jacket in her other hand, not both hands behind the back. Do we really believe that he would roughly force her up the steps in full view of all those people?

She really needs to get a life. I feel sorry for her and her feeble attempts to cling to the memory of her son, killed after volunteering for a rescue mission in Iraq. He showed more dignity with that one act than she ever has in her life.
I've read a number of comments about the Sheehan/Young t-shirt ejections, and I can't help but notice that the "right" leaning commentators can't seem to mention Cindy Sheehan without also mentioning Hugo Chavez. For the life of me, I cannot see the relevance of invoking Hugo Chavez's name in their commentaries. What possible relevance does a South American politician have to the the issue of appropriateness of the expression of free speech in the gallery of the United States Congress?

Besides the fact that Ms. Sheehan was arrested and Ms. Young was not, you may want to add this additional "inconsistency" between the way Ms. Sheehan was and is being treated and how Ms. Young was and is being treated: Nowhere have I seen Ms. Young being condemned for her husband's questionable associations with defense contractors (he is, after all, on the defense appropriations subcommittee), whose PACS make up the vast majority of his political contributors, as Ms. Sheehan is for her association with Mr. Chavez.

How is Ms. Sheehan's association with Mr. Chavez any more relevant than the fact that the largest of Congressman Bill Young's political contributors is "top ten" defense contractor BAE Systems North America, which might be seen as being far more reflective of his wife's fashion choices than Ms. Sheehan's association with Mr. Chavez is of hers?

My point: How are either of these associations revelant? Personally I think neither are. But if one is, certainly so is the other, and to attack one association without addressing the other is, in my mind, an example of ethical corruption.

It's time for the right to stop this all-too-obvious McCarthyist rhetoric of "guilt by association" personal attacks, because we in the American heartland can see right through it and we're getting pretty sick of it.

Stick to the issues and quit the personal slurs.
I would like to add that it's been reported that the police told Ms. Sheehan that her shirt wasn't allowed in the House Chamber and Ms. Sheehan ignored them. I'm sure that they also (considering that) told her to zip up her jacket or leave (though that wasn't reported). Ms. Sheehan was most probably removed because she failed to follow that simple order.

Also, this whole thing was likely planned for publicity. No doubt that Ms. Sheehan knew exactly what would happen when she wore that shirt (which was hidden beneath her jacket until she was in her seat). In fact, I bet she was counting on it.

While I agree that there are cases such associations are overly emphasized, I think that Sheehan went to Venzuela and stood next to a man who is nothing more than thug dicatator while criticizing the U.S. is horrible. Couple that with the numerous things she has said and done it shows a pattern of poor judgement and digusting behavior. What happened at the SOTU was just another in a long line of actions this woman has taken. As for Young's association I was unaware of them nor am I suprised since companies will often make contributions to Congressman who sit on committees which govern their industry. Were FEC rules broken? Federal law? That would make it relevant. And while Cindy Sheehan did nothing wrong, legally speaking, with going to see Hugo it is the idea that she is more willing to support people who know nothing of freedom rather than the nation which continues to give her the liberty she so often employs to attack it. And if you need no furthe proof take today's comment from her that Bush is 10 times worse than Bin Laden.
So no update regarding the correction later released pointing out that her T-Shirt was in fact allowed and removing her was a mistake?
No updates because I have moved on to other more recent events.

Thanks for stopping by.
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