Free speech takes a Capitol beating
By Mike Ferner
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Sep 26, 2007, 00:40
WASHINGTON -- Free speech took a beating with another
round of arrests September 18 in the nation�s capital. It was administered by
the police at a rally sponsored by the most unlikely-sounding group to be
involved in such a thing: Veterans for Freedom.
U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman, John McCain and Lindsey Graham
were among the featured speakers at the rally held in Upper Senate Park on
Capitol Hill. About 150 people attended the rally to support the group�s
pro-war position, as did about 30 people who were not in support. Before the
rally concluded, Leah Bolger, David Barrows, Christine Rainwater, Anne
Kitridge, and Anne Katz were arrested by Capitol Police.
Barrows said he had gone to the park because he heard
Lieberman was going to speak. When the senator was talking, Barrows spoke out,
�I don�t want your 'bomb and run genocide' in Iran.
"As soon as I did, a plainclothes policeman came up to
me and said, 'You�re under arrest,'" the 60 year-old D.C. resident
continued. But, Barrows said, instead of going with the officer immediately he
moved another six feet closer to the stage, whereupon he was placed under
It wasn�t until he was taken to the Capitol Police station
that Barrows discovered one of the charges against him was assault. �They told
me I was being charged with assaulting a Gold Star mother at the rally. When I
looked at their report, the accuser�s name and address had been blacked out but
I recognized the photo of a well-groomed Asian-American woman I'd seen around
Capitol Hill several times. Why in the world would I assault a Gold Star
Mother? It makes no sense."
Barrows was given a "stay away" order (not allowed
to step foot on and Capitol property which includes the Capitol Building, the
five House and Senate office buildings, and assorted bits of property adjoining
them) and has a trial date pending.
Bolger, a retired Navy Commander and member of Veterans For
Peace, said she went to the park for the same reason Barrows did, "to hear
Lieberman, McCain and Lindsey Graham. She was arrested and charged with
unlawful assembly. After a night in the D.C. Metro Police lockup she pleaded
not guilty at her arraignment. Trial is set for October 23 in D.C. Superior
"It's just bizzare," the Corvallis, Oregon
resident said. How can I be charged with 'unlawful assembly' when I was at an
outdoor rally in a public park sponsored by someone else? I was in the Hart
Senate Office Building when I heard Lieberman was supposed to speak, and I went
to hear him."
She said she was sympathetically talking with a member of a
group called "Families United" about the pain of losing a loved one,
when a Capitol Hill police officer told her and Adam Kokesh, co-chair of Iraq
Veterans Against the War (IVAW) to move to the other side of a sidewalk serving
as a rough demarcation line between the Veterans for Freedom members and
others, generally defined.
Bolger said, "At one point in his remarks, Senator
Graham gestured to those of us separated from the main group and said, 'These
people just don't get it. The reason your loved ones fought and died was for
them to have the right to do what they're doing right now.'" Bolger
responded out loud to Lieberman, "You can't win when you're killing
"Then the cop told me, 'this is your second
warning,'" Bolger added. "And then when I said to Lieberman, 'This
war is wrong. America is wrong.' I was arrested. Somehow I doubt the same thing
would have happened had I said 'God Bless America' really loudly."
Another person arrested, Annie Katz, from Kingston, New
York, said reading the
Constitution aloud in Upper Senate Park that day was enough to get her arrested.
Attorney Jack Berringer, who represented Barrows and Bolger,
complained of what he called the court's "preventive" use of stay
away orders to limit the movements of protesters and potential protesters, but
as aggravating as those are, he said, "they're not the real story here.
The real story is how these people [Bolger, Barrows, and others arrested in
peace protests] are fighting to keep free speech alive."
Berringer referred to a web site
that several people are constructing who have represented themselves "pro
se" in similar cases. He and attorney Mark Goldstone are advising the
group's work which he hopes will become a legal resource for others.
Ferner is an
independent journalist from Ohio. His web site is www.mikeferner.org.
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