A couple arrested at a rally after refusing to cover T-shirts that bore anti-President Bush slogans settled their lawsuit against the federal government for $80,000, the American Civil Liberties Union announced Thursday.
Nicole and Jeffery Rank of Corpus Christi, Texas, were handcuffed and removed from the July 4, 2004, rally at the state Capitol, where Bush gave a speech. A judge dismissed trespassing charges against them, and an order closing the case was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Charleston.
“This settlement is a real victory not only for our clients but for the First Amendment,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of West Virginia. “As a result of the Ranks’ courageous stand, public officials will think twice before they eject peaceful protesters from public events for exercising their right to dissent.”
A call to the White House seeking comment on the case was not immediately returned Thursday.
The front of the Ranks’ homemade T-shirts bore the international symbol for “no” superimposed over the word “Bush.” The back of Nicole Rank’s T-shirt said “Love America, Hate Bush.” On the back of Jeffery Rank’s T-shirt was the message “Regime Change Starts at Home.”
The ACLU said in a statement that a presidential advance manual makes it clear that the government tries to exclude dissenters from the president’s appearances. “As a last resort,” the manual says, “security should remove the demonstrators from the event.”