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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Protestor Wins Lawsuit Over Bad Arrest

After the Sept. 11 attacks, government officials in the Bush administration, and their mouthpieces in the mainstream press, made it clear that disagreeing with Bush's policies were unpatriotic and helped our enemies.

Such sentiments are also grassroots. Here in Gainesville, a local protestor was arrested and briefly charged with exposing minors to obscenity by wearing an anti-Bush t-shirt with a caricature that can best be described as graphic. The state attorney wisely declined to press the charges, but the protestor, Charles "Chas" Chiodo, sued the city for violating his First Amendment rights.

This week, he won. The city agreed to pay what he asked – about $12,000 plus his attorney fees – and to make a policy that prevents rouge cops from arresting someone just because they don't like what's on their t-shirt. Now the cop has to get his boss to agree the content violates the law before busting someone.

In other parts of the nation, there is still work to be done. A Denver woman was threatened with arrest recently for having a bumper sticker that says "Fuck Bush". Although in no way illegal according to the law and the courts, this woman was told not to return to the store she was visiting with the sticker on her vehicle, or she would be arrested. The cop is under investigation.

The right to say "Fuck Bush" is one of the most cherished rights we have. Political expression is what the freedom of speech amendment is all about.

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