Media Contact: Heather Wong, 202.225.3072
Washington, D.C. - According to a recent Associated Press report, a couple was taken in restraints from a July 4th event featuring President Bush simply because they wore “anti-Bush” T-shirts. Although Nicole and Jeffrey Rank had tickets to the event, they were also cited for trespassing.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D- San Jose) in a letter to the President today questioned whether any member of the Bush administration or campaign had any involvement with this incident. Congresswoman Lofgren also called for the President to detail what steps he would take to ensure that the basic American right to free speech is protected at future events.
After the Ranks were forcibly removed for wearing "anti-Bush" T-shirts, the President repeatedly touted his support of free speech to the assembled crowd in Charleston, West Virginia:
"We're thankful that this nation they created 228 years ago remains free and independent and the best hope for all mankind."
Our nation "is the world's most foremost champion of liberty."
"On this 4th of July, we confirm our love of freedom, the freedom for people to speak their minds."
"Free thought, free expression, that's what we believe." [Speech by President Bush, Charleston, West Virginia, 7/4/04]
"Americans need to know whether the President's rhetoric matches his actions," said Congresswoman Lofgren. “It is very disturbing that the President talked about his support for "free expression" on stage while two members of the crowd were restrained and arrested because their T-shirts opposed his reelection. We deserve to know whether the President truly respects our constitutional right to free speech, or if we should continue to expect such incidents at future Bush events."
The following is the text of Lofgren’s letter to President Bush:
July 7, 2004
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The Associated Press reports that Nicole and Jeffrey Rank of Corpus Christi, Texas entered your July 4th event with a ticket and then removed their shirts to reveal "anti-Bush" T-shirts; and that after the couple refused to go to a "designated protest area," they were forcibly removed in restraints and issued citations for trespassing.
Please tell me whether you or your campaign disputes the accuracy of this press report. If not, did any member of your administration or campaign play any role in this incident? In either case, is it your view that people who wear “anti-Bush” T-shirts should be shackled and arrested? If not, what steps will you – as a candidate for re-election and as President of the United States, sworn to protect and defend the Constitution – take to ensure that the secret service, local police, and campaign organizers respect people’s basic American right to free speech?
Mr. President, America needs to know what is going on here. During your speech in West Virginia, you stated that you believed in “the freedom for people to speak their minds.” It should not take an extended period of time to find out whether that is in fact the case, or whether incidents such as this are what we should expect from your campaign during the 2004 Presidential election.
Member of Congress