And George W. Bush's Hatred of Both Freedom and the U.S. Constitution
By Brad Friedman on 2/1/2006, 11:55am PT  

Let me be very clear, since the Mainstream Wingnut Media Spinners are already attempting to "Fair and Balance" (read: level an unlevel playing field) this one.

Cindy Sheehan, who did not plan to, or even want to go to the State of the Union speech, was convinced to go. She wore the T-shirt she had been wearing all day long in support of our troops, including her own son who gave his life in service to this country while in Iraq. Sheehan's shirt said, "2,245 Dead --- How Many More??"

She was arrested for wearing the shirt, held for hours in detention, and claims to have been "roughed up" a bit in the process.

We covered the entire process, minute-by-minute, as it shamefully unfolded last night.

Later, during the speech --- after Sheehan had already been arrested --- the wife of a Republican Congressman from Florida, Bill Young, was politely asked to leave the chamber for wearing a T-shirt in support of our troops. Her shirt said "Support the Troops Defending Our Freedom."

She was not arrested for wearing the shirt, she was not held for hours in detention, nor roughed up. She does not face any legal charges or legal fees in connection with the incident that we know about. And, as far as we know, did not also make the ultimate sacrifice of giving the life of her child for this country.

Rep. Young reportedly decried, "Shame, shame," on the U.S. House Floor today for the treatment of his wife. His wife, who was not arrested as far as we know.

While neither woman should have been arrested --- or even removed from the gallery (in our opinion) --- they were not treated equally. Whatever the "rules" are about such things in the U.S. Congress, they did not receive "equal treatment under the law". (A law, we might add, which would seem to be unconstitutional, according to this 1971 Supreme Court decision which ruled that wearing a "Fuck the Draft" T-shirt into a courthouse was Constitutionally protected free speech).

Both T-shirts were in support of our troops. Both shirts made a political statement of sorts. One woman was arrested, the other was not.

In fact, the other was not even asked to leave until after the speech had already started. After Sheehan had been arrested and after the authorities knew they had a politically sticky situation on their hands. All of which begs the question of whether Mrs. Young would have been asked to leave the chamber at all, had not Sheehan's arrest occurred previously.

As to Sheehan's take on things, she wrote this morning about "What Really Happened" as she experienced it.

She describes the fact that she didn't want to go to Bush's speech at all, since it would be so difficult for her to here, didn't wish to protest or be disruptive, but was convinced, in the end, to go anyway.

You can read her entire description of events, but here's one notable passage:

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, "2245, 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 2244 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 shrit that has the number of troops on it that George Bush and his arrogant and ignorant policies are responsible for killing.

I wore the shirt to make a statement. The press knew I was going to be there and I thought every once in awhile they would show me and I would have the shirt on. I did not wear it to be disruptive, or I would have unzipped my jacket during George's speech. If I had any idea what happens to people who wear shirts that make the neocons uncomfortable that I would be arrested...maybe I would have, but I didn't.

All of that, even as Bush was saying at the exact same moment, as if he meant it, these words during his State of the Union Speech:

"No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it.
...
We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it."

Cindy Sheehan understands what those words actually mean. She gave up the life of her son in supposed defense of that freedom. She is fighting for that freedom which George W. Bush doesn't have a clue about.

And frankly, any American who doesn't stand with her in that particular fight, hasn't a clue of what America --- or the U.S. Constitution --- actually stands for.

"Shame, shame," indeed.

UPDATE: John Nichols in The Nation gets it right. He discusses the events that took place "Minutes before the President of the United States would tell the Congress how much he appreciates 'responsible criticism and counsel'" and points out that Mrs. Young admits to having "argued loudly with officers and called one of them 'an idiot'". But, of course, unlike Sheehan, who behaved politely throughout the proceedings according to all accounts...

Mrs. Young was not handcuffed. She was not dragged from the Capitol. She was not arrested. She was not jailed.

Sheehan, who caused no ruckus, was arrested not because she engaged in "unlawful conduct." Rather, by every evidence, she was arrested because of what her t-shirt said --- and, by extension, because of what she believes.

ALSO... More on "Good SOTU Protests" versus "Bad SOTU Protests" here...

FURTHER UPDATE: Capitol Cops admit they "Screwed up"! Charges to be dropped!