ACLU appeals ruling on Bush staffers who ejected three for anti-war sticker

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado filed an appeal Tuesday in the case of three Denver-area residents who were ejected from a town hall meeting in 2005 by Bush White House staffers and Republican volunteers upset about a “No More Blood For Oil” bumpersticker on their car.

A district court judge ruled in November that “the President has a right to exclude from his official, public appearances, all individuals who disagree with his policies,” dismissing a lawsuit the ACLU filed on behalf of Leslie Weise and Alex Young, two of The Denver Three.

“The question presented here is straightforward,” the ACLU writes in an appeal filed with the 10th Circuit Court of appeals. “May individuals be ejected from a public event by the government simply because the government suspects they may disagree with that government?” (The answer is “no,” the ACLU argues.)

The case stems from a town hall meeting at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum on March 21, 2005, where President George W. Bush appeared with U.S. Sen. John McCain to sell a plan to privatize Social Security. White House operatives and local GOP volunteers ousted The Denver Three — Weise, Young and Karen Bauer — from the event and later told them it was because of anti-war bumperstickers on their car.

Weise and Young posted their reasons for appealing the district court’s decision Tuesday, saying it “became very clear what was at risk: the right for Americans to express our own ideas without fear of government punishment.”

Being forcibly removed for the mere possibility of having a difference of opinion was, to say the least, frightening and disturbing. At time of the incident, we felt both angry and embarrassed. This kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen in America. Since that day, our anger has turned into fear and sadness for what these actions and decisions by our government officials could mean for the future of our country.

Now we stand with the ACLU in resolute determination to do all that we can to ensure this abuse of civil liberties doesn’t continue to happen in America. If such freedoms are not protected, we will live in a country where independent thought will be a thing of the past, and heavily redacted bumper stickers will be the only ones remaining on our cars.

“We believe that our clients were expelled from this public meeting on the basis of a policy formulated in Washington and implemented throughout the country,” ACLU of Colorado legal director Mark Silverstein said when the lawsuit was first filed. “This case is not just about two people, it is about protecting the rights and liberties of every single American.”

The Colorado Independent reported in 2007 on a Bush White House policy manual unearthed in the lawsuit. The manual sets out procedures designed to keep taxpayer-funded rallies free of anyone disagreeing with Bush administration policies.

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Ernest Luning

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