Two people who claim their political views got them kicked out of a hall where President Bush was about to speak filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against three White House officials.
The lawsuit filed names Greg Jenkins, director of White House travel planning; Steve Atkiss, Jenkins’ deputy at the time; and James O’Keefe, the White House’s lead advance staffer for the event.
Leslie Weise and Alex Young of Denver were ejected from the hall in Denver just before Bush was to talk about his plans for Social Security at the March 21, 2005, taxpayer-funded event.
Weise and Young had arrived in a car with a bumper sticker reading “No blood for oil.” They were wearing T-shirts saying “Stop the lies” under their clothes but did not show them. They have said they had no plans to disrupt the event, but Young hoped to ask Bush a question if given the opportunity.
The lawsuit, filed on their behalf by the Colorado branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, claims they were ejected from the event because they might have been critical of the president.
“The White House should not be in the business of censoring Americans,” said Mark Silverstein, the group’s Colorado legal director. “Our clients were removed not because they were disruptive, but because they could ‘potentially’ engage in critical speech.”
White House spokesman Blair Jones said he could not comment on pending litigation. Atkiss, who now is chief of staff for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the Department of Homeland Security, did not immediately return a call.
Earlier, Weise and Young filed suit against two volunteers at the event, Michael Casper and Jay Bob Klinkerman, alleging they were directly responsible for their ejection.
In a sworn deposition he made in connection with the earlier lawsuit, Casper said he was acting under orders from Atkiss and O’Keefe. That prompted the new lawsuit against them and Jenkins. The lawsuit said the three created the policy that Jenkins, as director of the office, was believed to have put in place.