Demos decry Bush rally ouster over T-shirts

WASHINGTON – Responding to the number of examples of American voters being turned away, or removed from George W. Bush’s visits to their cities and states, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe hosted a national conference call with Oregon teachers who were kicked out of an Oct. 14 Medford Bush rally for wearing T-shirts saying, “Protect Our Civil Liberties.”

McAuliffe released the following statement Sunday:

“The President has stripped his events of anyone who might disagree with him, which is completely un-American. It is dangerous for a President to be the bubble boy of American politics. But it might explain why the President can’t admit the problems of people without jobs, without health care, without prescription drugs, or trying to put their kids through college. He doesn’t know about them because he refuses to even see them.

“George Bush has 15 days left to do right by the American people and the democratic process. He shouldn’t try to compel allegiance with loyalty oaths, he should earn it with his views. Yes, people at his events have a responsibility to let him speak. But he also has a responsibility to let Americans listen, and to listen to them in turn.”

Medford teachers Janet Voorhees, Candice Julian, Tania Tong were kicked out of George W. Bush’s October 14 Medford event for wearing shirts saying “Protect Our Civil Liberties.”

THE BUSH CAMPAIGN PLAYBOOK: STEP ONE – FILTER OUT DEMOCRACY
At campaign stops across the country, the Bush-Cheney campaign has practiced a Republicans-only policy, barring individuals that disagree with the President from public campaign events. The Republican National Committee has even required event-attendees to sign endorsement forms that pledge their support for the re-election of Bush.

Whether you’re a World War II veteran, a pro-choice independent, a grieving mother, a FEMA worker, or even a high school student, if you question Bush’s leadership or don’t belong to his political party, you don’t have the right to see your president, ask him questions and understand where he stands on the issues. What follows is a sampling of stories, from across the country, of individuals banned from Bush’s campaign events.

THE BUSH CAMPAIGN’S COORDINATED EFFORT TO DENY ACCESS
Republican National Committee Requires Voters To Sign Loyalty Oaths
Rally-Attendees In New Mexico Were Required To Sign Endorsement Forms Before Entering Bush-Cheney Rallies. The Republican National Committee is requiring voters to sign endorsement forms before they attend campaign rallies featuring Vice President Cheney or President Bush. When Vice President Dick Cheney spoke on July 31st to a crowd of 2,000 in Rio Rancho, NM, voters were required to sign an endorsement form in order to receive a ticket to hear Cheney “Whose vice president is he?” asked a 72-year-old John Wade. “I just wanted to hear what my vice president had to say, and they make me sign a loyalty oath.” The form’s endorsement begins, “I, ___,” requiring individuals to state their name, position, hometown and state, “do hereby endorse George W. Bush for re-election of the United States.” Attendees then date and sign the form. A disclaimer box underneath the signature line states, “In signing the above endorsement you are consenting to use and release of your name by Bush-Cheney as an endorser of President Bush.” [Boston Globe, 8/9/04]

RNC Falsely Claimed That Bush-Cheney Events Do Not Require Endorsement Forms. An RNC spokesman, Danny Diaz, claimed that RNC rallies are separate from Bush-Cheney campaign events and that the Bush-Cheney campaign does not require endorsement forms from attendees. Diaz justified the policy saying, “They want to make sure people can hear the president and vice president’s vision for the next four years,” he said. “There are thousands of volunteers who sacrifice and work hard on the campaign and who deserve to see and hear their president without being disrupted and disrespected.” However, Democrats and Independents have been turned away at Bush-Cheney rallies in Minnesota, Iowa, Nevada and West Virginia. [Boston Globe, 8/9/04; AP, 7/10/04; Saint Paul Pioneer Press, 6/19/04; Telegraph Herald, 5/4/04; Reno Gazette-Journal, 6/19/04]

Secret Service Colludes In Keeping Events Bush-Friendly
The Secret Service Has Banned Anti-Bush Protesters Since September 2001. The Secret Service has actively barred individuals from protesting President Bush since he took office in early 2001. Individuals across the country have been banned from displaying anti-Bush messages at dozens of appearances. The ACLU filed a suit against the Secret Service in September 2003, seeking an injunction against the Bush administration from sequestering protestors at the president’s public appearances. Most recently in West Virginia, a FEMA worker and her husband were arrested for wearing anti-Bush t-shirts at a public appearance billed by Bush as a presidential visit. The couple were forcibly removed from the event and arrested. Witold Walczak, a lawyer who has filed suit against the Secret Service for the ACLU, said that since the event was a presidential visit, it made it “an even more glaring violation of the First Amendment.” [Charleston Gazette, 7/14/04; Cox News Service, 9/23/03]

Internal Secret Service Memo From September 2002 Said Protestors Could Not Be Treated Differently. The Secret Service had an internal memo dated September 2002, saying that agents could not treat protestors differently or worse than anyone else at a presidential appearance. [Charleston Gazette, 7/14/04]

ACLU Case Against Secret Service Segregating Protestors At Bush Events Was Thrown Out. The Secret Service had been telling local police that they should be segregating anyone displaying anti-administration messages in areas out of sight and earshot of President Bush. However, when the ACLU filed a suit against the Secret Service, they agreed with the ACLU and said that they should not be separating protestors. Because they agreed with the ACLU, the judge threw out the case. Since that case was filed, the ACLU has reported only two incidences of a “no-protest zone” in Little Rock, AK and Knoxville, TN. [Charleston Gazette, 7/14/04]

Bush-Cheney Campaign Racially Profiles Journalists
Cheney Campaign Worker Demanded To Know Race of Asian American Newspaper Photographer. A Cheney campaign worker called the Arizona Daily Star to check the name, date of birth, social security number and race of a photographer assigned to cover a political event that the Vice President would attend in Tucson. The paper, which had never been questioned on the race of a journalist before, refused to answer the question. The Asian American Journalist Association’s [AAJA]national officers issued a statement saying that “the demand bordered on racial profiling.” Abe Kwok, AAJA vice president for print, said he was “troubled at published reports that the inquiry of race as made of some journalists and not others.” A Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman said the request came from the Secret Service, but reporters and photographers are usually asked to provide only name, date of birth and Social Security number when requesting access to political events. The paper was told that the journalist’s race was “necessary to allow the Secret Service to distinguish her from someone else who might have the same name.” “It was a very lame excuse,” said Terry Hayt, the paper’s managing editor. [PR Newswire, 8/3/04, Newsday, 8/3/04; Arizona Daily Star, 7/31/04]

INDIVIDUALS THREATENED, THROWN OUT OF BUSH EVENTS
Grieving Gold Star Mom Was Handcuffed At Laura Bush Event
A Gold Star Mom Woman, Who Lost Her Son In Iraq, Is Forcibly Removed From Bush-Cheney Event. Sue Niederer of Hopewell, NJ, a gold star mother, was handcufed and arrested for speaking out about the war in Iraq at a campaign event with Laura Bush. Niederer wore a t-shirt with the worlds “President Bush You Killed My Son” and brought a framed picture of him with her to the event. She interrupted Bush’s speech, demanding to know why her son, 24-year old Army First Lt. Seth Dvorin, had to die because of Bush’s misguided policy in Iraq. Secret service and local police handcuffed Niederer and detained her in the back of a police van. Laura Bush continued to speak, making many references to the September 11th attacks. “Too many people here had a loved one that went to work in New York that day,” Bush said. “It’s for our country, it’s for our children, our grandchildren that we do the hard work of confronting terror.” [AP, 9/16/04]

High School Students Threatened At Bush Campaign Event: “A Sniper” Could “Take Him Out”
John Sachs, an 18-year old high school senior went to see Bush in Clive, IA. Sachs got a ticket to the event from school and wanted to ask the president about whether there would be a draft, about the war in Iraq, Social Security and Medicare. At the event, a campaign staffer pulled Sachs aside and made him remove his button that read: `Bush-Cheney ’04: Leave No Billionaire Behind.’ “The staffer quizzed him about whether he was a Bush supporter, asked him why he was there and what questions he would be asking the president. `Then he came back and said, ‘If you protest, it won’t be me taking you out. It will be a sniper,’ Sachs said. `He said it in such a serious tone it scared the crap out of me.’” [Des Moines Register, 10/16/04]

Woman In West Virginia Was Fired For Protesting At Bush Event
FEMA Worker Was Lead Away In Handcuffs For Wearing Anti-Bush T-Shirt At A Presidential Visit, Then Ordered From Her Post In West Virginia. Nicole Rank and her husband were lead away in handcuffs during the President’s July 4th visit to Charleston, WV for wearing t-shirts that said, “Love America, Hate Bush.” The couple was ticketed, released and given summonses to appear in court. Rank, who was working in West Virginia for the Federal Emergency Management Association, was taken off her assignment and sent home by the federal coordinating office for FEMA. FEMA officials refused to say whether she had been fired from her job, but her husband later revealed that she had been fired. The event was billed as an official presidential visit and not a campaign stop, but Bush-Cheney campaign buttons were sold on the grounds of the Capitol. All those given access to the event had applied for tickets ahead of time, and were given a list of prohibited items that did not include political t-shirts, buttons or lapel pins. Those wearing pro-Bush t-shirts were left alone. [The Charleston Gazette, 7/9/04, 7/8/04]

West Virginia man who heckled President Bush at a political rally was fired from job. Glen Hiller, a graphic designer, expressed his disagreement with President Bush at a Hedgesville High School rally. When he returned to work the next day at Octavo Designs, he was told he had embarrassed a client and was dismissed. “All I did was show up and voice my opinion,” Hiller said. [AP, 8/21/04]

Pro-Choice T-Shirt Grounds For Removal At Bush-Cheney Events
Family of Three Was Kicked Out Of Bush Event For Bringing A Pro-Choice T-Shirt. The Millers, a family of three – husband, wife and daughter – were removed from a Bush-Cheney campaign event because the wife, Barbara Miller, brought a pro-choice t-shirt with her. A campaign worker confiscated the t-shirt informing the family that “We don’t accept any pro-choice, non-Republican paraphernalia.” The campaign worker returned an hour later with another worker and a security guard and accused the Millers of “smuggling t-shirts.” Barbara Miller, who brought the t-shirt because she was cold and had not considered the implications of its pro-choice logo, reports that a guard grabbed their three tickets from her hand and ripped them up “violently and told her, `They’re no good anymore.’” A Bush campaign spokeswoman, Jennifer Millerwise, defended the right of the campaign to ask individuals who intend to “disrupt campaign events” to leave. “These events are put on .. for people of an open mind who are interested in hearing [Bush's] positive message and his vision for a future,” she said. Theresa Miller, the daughter, said that was what she was there to do. “I’m not an American? I can’t see my president?” she asked. [Saginaw News, 8/6/04]

Teachers Who Believe In Civil Liberties Are Kicked Out of Bush Event
School Teachers Are Threatened With Arrest For Wearing “Protect Our Civil Liberties.” In Medford, OR, three school teachers “were threatened with arrest and escorted from the event after they showed up wearing T-shirts with the slogan `Protect our civil liberties.’ All three said they applied for and received valid tickets from Republican headquarters in Medford,” the Associated Press reported. “The women said they did not intend to protest. “I wanted to see if I would be able to make a statement that I feel is important, but not offensive, in a rally for my president,” said Janet Voorhies, 48, a teacher in training. “We chose this phrase specifically because we didn’t think it would be offensive or degrading or obscene,” said Tania Tong, 34, a special education teacher.” Republican officials attempted to distance themselves from the event. A Bush campaign spokesman, Tracey Schmitt, said: “It is not the position of the campaign that wearing a T-shirt that says protect civil liberties is enough to conclude someone is disruptive.” [AP, 10/14/04; Oregonian, 10/16/04]

Woman In Alabama Fired For Bush Sticker On Car
Alabama woman lost job for sporting Kerry sticker on car. Lynne Gobbell, of Moulton, AL, lost her job after her boss demanded she remove the Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker from her car. “The manager told her to go back to work, but he came back a few minutes later and said, ‘I reckon you’re fired. You could either work for him or John Kerry,’ Gobbell said.” `It upset me and made me mad that he could put a letter in my check expressing his (political) opinion, but I can’t put something on my car expressing mine.’ ” [Decatur Daily News, 9/12/04; AP, 9/15/04]

Man in Maryland Fired For Hosting Pro-Kerry Message Board
An alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention forced out of job for support of Kerry. Ono Ekeh was dismissed from his position at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for organization’s computers in moderating a `Catholics for Kerry’ message board. He made 31 of the message board’s 401 posts between late August 2003 and February 2004. “U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spokesman Bill Ryan said the organization would not fire anyone merely for supporting a particular political candidate, but declined to comment on the Ekeh matter.” [Capital News Service, 7/23/04; Knight Rider, 7/30/04]

College Newspapers Denied Access To Bush Campaign Appearance
College Newspapers’ Reporters And Photographers Told That They Should Be In School Instead Of Trying To Report About Presidential Visit. Reporters and photographers from the Des Moines Area Community College [DMACC] and Iowa State University newspapers were denied access to see the President in Des Moines. The students were not included on the list of approved media when they arrived, despite faxing their request for credentials well ahead of the event’s press deadline. Mike Allsup, a student reporter from the DMACC Chronicle, said that the “White House advance staff told him his time would be better spent in school. `It really is not fair that we represent 14,000 students at my college and I’m disregarded and sent away.’” “A news crew from WQAD television in Moline, IL was not on the approved media list but allowed into the event,” alleged Iowa State Daily photography editor Eric Rowley. [Des Moines Register, 4/16/04]

INCIDENTS FROM ACROSS THE STATES
Seating For Republicans Only: Minnesota
Campaign Staff Prevent Democrats And Independents From Attending July 13th Bush-Cheney Rally In Duluth, MN. Bush-Cheney campaign staff, trying to ensure a friendly crowd for Bush’s rally in Duluth, would not hand out tickets to Democrats or Independents, if they admitted that they weren’t sure they were voting for Bush. Many residents were angered that only Republicans would be given the opportunity to attend the Bush-Cheney rally. A Duluth resident, Jan Witte, questioned who Bush really represented “He’s my president too… I just thought I should be able to hear him speak.” [AP, 7/10/04]

ACT Campaign Worker Told That Only Bush Backers Could Hear The First Lady Speak. Meighan Mills Stone, a spokeswoman for Americans Coming Together, a 527 working to defeat Bush, tried to attend a campaign event of about 1,700 Republican-faithful to hear Laura Bush in St. Paul, MN. Stone had received tickets ahead of time from the Bush-Cheney campaign. Stone had her tickets confiscated in line and was told that the event was for Bush backers only. [Saint Paul Pioneer Press, 6/19/04]

Tim Walz, a 23 year National Guard veteran wanted to hear his commander-in-chief. He was allowed into the quarry event after the two young men he was escorting were told to leave the event because one of the young men had a Kerry sticker in his wallet. When Walz objected he was first told to leave as well. Then, a Bush official asked if he supported the President. When he said he did not, the Bush official told him he had to leave as well and he was threatened with arrest. When he informed the official that he had just returned from overseas, the official begrudgingly allowed him to stay with the admonition that the Secret Service would be watching him. [Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, 8/13/04]

Two young high school students turned away from Bush rally in Mankato, Minnesota. The young men were denied tickets for making unfavorable comments while waiting in line for three hours. They were then given tickets, but when they got off the shuttle bus at the event, they were denied entry. A Mankato West High School teacher who defended the boys was also prevented from going in and threatened with arrest upon being ordered to leave. [Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, 8/13/04]

Seating for Republicans Only: Michigan
A school teacher’s ticket is torn up and she is barred from entry into Bush event for wearing Kerry-Edwards sticker on blouse. “But Ralph Soffredine, a Traverse City commissioner, school board member and former police chief who worked security at the front gate, said it is part of the Bush campaign policy.” The fifty-five year old wanted the experience of seeing a president and hearing him speak, but instead left wondering this is truly a democracy. [Traverse City Record-Eagle, 8/17/04]

“if you are an undecided voter or an independent, you might have to make the case that you are willing to support Bush.” The Ottawa County Republicans handed out tickets after first asking for ID and if people were Republicans or open to the President’s ideas. [The Grand Rapids Press, 9/11/04]

Seating for Republicans Only: Wisconsin
Party workers made sure the audience was made up of Bush supporters. Individuals seeking tickets were brought in either individually or with another person and asked if they were Republicans. If they said “no” they were then asked if they had an open-minded approach to the coming election. A state spokesman confirmed that the campaign was primarily trying to reward past supporters. [The Chippewa Herald, 8/17/04]

Wisconsin elected official ejected from Bush event. Outagamie County Supervisor Jayson Nelson was removed from the VIP list for the event for `inappropriate attire’. He had a Kerry t-shirt fully hidden under his button down shirt. He was ordered out of line and told to take off his outer shirt revealing the Kerry t-shirt. At that point a female election worker called police over, exclaiming “Look at his shirt! Look at his shirt!” The police told him he must leave and directed him to the Secret Service. The Secret Service informed him he had broken no laws, that the same would happen at a Kerry event and that he still must leave. [The Post Crescent, 7/18/04]

Seating For Republicans Only: Iowa
A World War Two Veteran Didn’t Qualify To Hear The President. Bill Ward, a veteran of World War II, got into line at 7:30 am to get tickets to see Bush in Dubuque, IA. He waited in line for an hour, and when it finally came time to show his identification campaign staff asked him if he had voted for Bush in 2000. “I didn’t vote for him then and I won’t vote for him now,” declared Ward. Ward identified himself to the campaign workers as a World War II vet who served in France and Germany. Critical of the war in Iraq, Ward said, “The only thing I wanted to do was get down to the riverfront and ask Bush some questions.” Ward recalled, “They asked some girl to escort me out and I told them I don’t need to be escorted out. I’m a veteran of World War II.” [Telegraph Herald, 5/4/04]

19-Year Old Political Science Major Need Not Apply. Matt Trewartha, a 19-year old political science major was excited to see hear the President during his campaign stop in Dubuque, IA. However, after waiting in line for more than an hour, Matt was turned away empty handed. He writes in an editorial in the Telegraph Herald, “When I finally reached the [campaign] office, I was pulled aside by a campaign official and told that I would not be given the four tickets that I desired because of a comment I had made in line about not being a Republican. After a lengthy discussion and my promise to be respectful, I was turned away empty handed. I though this was a public event with the community as the guest, but the man told me that they were selecting the guests.” [Opinion, Telegraph Herald, 5/11/04]

Seating For Republicans Only: Nevada
Campaign Staff Rips Up The Tickets Of Three Teenagers. In Reno, Nevada, Bush’s campaign workers stalked the line of attendees to a Bush rally to ensure that only his supporters were allowed inside. “Three Reno teenagers had tickets pulled out of their hands and ripped to pieces by a campaign staff member after someone in line pointed out an anti-Bush sticker on one of the teens’ shirts.” 17-year old Jonathan Daniel tried to assure staff that he wouldn’t make trouble and only wanted to hear the president on the issues. The campaign would not be swayed. Daniel protested, “I believe it’s my right as an American to hear where he is leading our country.” [Reno Gazette-Journal, 6/19/04]

Seating For Republicans Only: Arizona
Bush Spokesman Says Woman Should “Come To Her Senses” and Support Bush If She Wants To See Him. Sue Walitsky, communications director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign in Arizona, had a valid ticket to see Bush speak at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, AZ, but the Bush-Cheney campaign refused her admittance with no explanation. Walitsky said that she wore no Kerry button and did not bring any Kerry campaign chum that would have upset Bush supporters. Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the Bush campaign said, “If she’s willing to come to her senses and support him, we’ll be happy to welcome her in.” Walitsky said that the Kerry campaign allows everyone with valid tickets, regardless of political affiliation, to attend Kerry campaign events. [Arizona Republic, 8/11/04]