CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Trespassing charges against two people who
wore anti-Bush T-shirts to the president’s July 4
rally at the West Virginia Capitol were dropped Thursday
because a city ordinance did not cover trespassing
on Statehouse grounds.
and Jeff Rank of Corpus Christi, Texas, were removed
from the event in restraints after taking off an outer
layer of clothes to reveal homemade T-shirts that
had President Bush’s name with a slash through it
and the words "Love America, Hate Bush"
on the back.
Ranks were given summonses to appear in Charleston
Municipal Court and released.
Municipal Judge Carole Bloom dismissed the charges
on the motion of Assistant City Attorney Deloris Martin.
Rank, 30, who was doing environmental work for the
Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of
Memorial Day flooding in the state, was released from
her position after her arrest without getting another
assignment. She remains employed with FEMA.
Rank, 28, who is an unemployed oceanographer, was
in West Virginia to be with her.
said Thursday it is not uncommon to leave one FEMA
job before being assigned another, although she had
expected to work in West Virginia longer.
couple said they were pleased with the case’s outcome
and planned to return to Texas immediately.
Rank said the couple did not go the Capitol with the
intention of being arrested. They are supporters of
presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry, but wanted
to take advantage of an opportunity to see Bush and
"give him a fair hearing."
certainly did not expect to be arrested for expressing
our freedom of expression," Jeff Rank said.
said they were not protesting in any other way than
simply wearing the shirts and did not said anything.
enforcement officers told the couple to take the shirts
off, cover them or get out. When they refused and
sat down, they were arrested. They then stood and
accompanied the police, said Charleston Mayor Danny
Ranks said they have not protested at other political
events and do not have any immediate plans to do so
continue to exercise our right to free expression
when we see fit. We’re not professional protesters,"
Jeff Rank said. "We’re going to get on with our
lives and go back to Texas and get jobs."
said, "I don’t think this was just about a T-shirt
issue. There were other things going on there. The
officers, quite frankly, feared for the safety of
said the city officers who filed the trespassing charges
were acting under the direction of the Secret Service.
officers are in a bind here," Jones said.
think we need some guidance. Perhaps the Secret Service
should have been called and let the Secret Service
do with them what they want," Jones said.
city of Charleston does not engage in violating people’s
rights. We want everybody to come here," said
Jones, a Republican.
he said he would not apologize to the Ranks.
were there to get arrested. They succeeded."
said he would talk to police before Kerry’s appearance
Thursday evening at the University of Charleston.
The Massachusetts senator was scheduled to appear
at a rally on a lawn across the Kanawha River from
Ranks were accompanied to the hearing by an attorney
affiliated with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Schneider, executive director of the ACLU’s West Virginia
chapter, said the organization has been monitoring
a pattern of similar cases in other states. The ACLU
in September filed a federal lawsuit against the Secret
Service, seeking an injunction against the Bush administration
for segregating protesters at his public appearances.
Secret Service agreed to stop the practice, ACLU attorney
Witold Walczak told The Charleston Gazette.
said, "This case demonstrates we will be out
there watching and monitoring to make sure free speech
rights are not violated regardless of political affiliation."
© Copyright 2004 Associated Press