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Police Apologize for Sheehan’s Arrest

The U.S. Capitol Police today apologized to antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan following her arrest last night at the State of the Union address. Chief Terrance W. Gainer said his officers went too far when they detained Sheehan for an antiwar T-shirt she was wearing.

“The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol. The policy and procedures were too vague,” Gainer said. “The failure to adequately prepare the officers is mine.”

The Capitol Police released a six-paragraph statement (see below) Wednesday night after coming under siege from Sheehan, who defended herself on Michael Moore’s website, and Gold Star Families for Peace, which called her detention a violation of her civil rights.

As it turns out, the Capitol Police will ask the U.S. Attorney’s Office not pursue charges against Sheehan. She was charged with unlawful conduct for displaying T-shirt with an antiwar message while in the House gallery. Police kept her detained throughout the President Bush’s nationally televised address.

According to the Capitol Police press release, “As the Department reviewed the incident, it was determined that while officers acted in a manner consistent with the rules of decorum enforced by the Department in the House Gallery for years, neither Mrs. Sheehan’s manner of dress or initial conduct warranted law enforcement intervention.”

Gainer also apologized to Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young (R.-Fla.). She was asked to leave the House gallery for wearing a T-shirt with a pro-America message. Although Rep. Young protested upon hearing about his wife’s situation, the matter didn’t draw nearly the attention of Sheehan’s arrest.

Officers will be instructed in the future not to resort to aggressive measures against attendees who wear “expressive T-shirts,” according to the press release.


Press Release

The United States Capitol Police will request that the U.S. Attorney’s Office not pursue the charge against Cindy Lee Sheehan who was arrested Tuesday Night before the President’s State of the Union address.

Mrs. Sheehan was charged Tuesday night with Unlawful Conduct after she displayed a T-shirt with an anti-war message while in the House Gallery. Subsequently she was arrested and transported to USCP Headquarters for processing.

As the Department reviewed the incident, it was determined that while officers acted in a manner consistent with the rules of decorum enforced by the Department in the House Gallery for years, neither Mrs. Sheehan’s manner of dress or initial conduct warranted law enforcement intervention. The USCP also asked Mrs. Beverly Young, to leave the gallery because of a T-shirt she was wearing. Mrs. Young did not return to the Gallery so there was no need for further police action. Neither guest should have been confronted about the expressive T-shirts.

“The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol. The policy and procedures were too vague,” said Chief Terrance W. Gainer. “The failure to adequately prepare the officers is mine.”

Chief Gainer met with Chairman Young and his wife to both apologize and share the Department’s plans for avoiding this in the future. A similar message has been left with Mrs. Sheehan.

The Department will work with the House Sergeant at Arms to clarify the rules of the House, and ensure that officers clearly understand the rules.

Written By

Mr. Bluey, a contributing editor to Human Events, is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation. He maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com.

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