Anti-war protester Sheehan arrested at White House
Editor’s note: Cindy Sheehan and 26 other activists were found guilty on Nov. 17 of protesting without a permit near the White House. They were each ordered to pay $75 in fines and court costs, but Sheehan’s lawyer said he planned to appeal the verdict. All the defendants contended they were trying to deliver petitions to the White House calling for an end to the war in Iraq on Sept. 26, but found no one willing to accept them.
WASHINGTON — Cindy Sheehan, the California woman who became a leader of the
anti-war movement following her son's death in Iraq, was arrested yesterday
along with dozens of others protesting outside the White House.
Sheehan, carrying a photo of her son in his Army uniform, was among hundreds
of protesters who marched around the White House and then down the two-block
pedestrian walkway on Pennsylvania Avenue. When they reached the front of the
White House, dozens sat down — knowing they would be arrested — and began
singing and chanting “Stop the war now!”
Police warned them three times that they were breaking the law by failing to
move along, then began making arrests. One man climbed over the White House
fence and was quickly subdued by Secret Service agents.
Sheehan, 48, was the first taken into custody. She smiled as she was carried
to the curb, then stood up and walked to a police vehicle while protesters
chanted, “The whole world is watching.”
About 50 people were arrested in the first hour, with dozens of others
waiting to be taken away. All cooperated with police.
Sgt. Scott Fear, spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, said they would be
charged with demonstrating without a permit, which is a misdemeanor.
Peaceful assemblies may be subject to generally applicable laws designed to
protect property and safety. First Amendment jurisprudence favors laws that
regulate the time, place and manner of expression as opposed to those that
regulate the content and viewpoint of the assemblers’ message.
Courts have upheld demonstration-permit requirements under the First
Amendment if they do not operate as unconstitutional prior restraints or impose
unduly time-consuming procedures on those seeking to exercise their
Park Police Sgt. L.J. McNally said Sheehan and the others would be taken to a
processing center where they would be fingerprinted and photographed, then given
a ticket and released.
Sheehan's 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in an ambush in Sadr City, Iraq,
last year. She attracted worldwide attention last month with her 26-day vigil
outside President Bush's Texas ranch.
The demonstration is part of a broader anti-war effort on Capitol Hill
organized by United for Peace and Justice, an umbrella group. Representatives
from anti-war groups were meeting yesterday with members of Congress to urge
them to work to end the war and bring home the troops.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush was “very much aware”
of the protesters and “recognizes that there are differences of opinion” on
“It's the right of the American people to peacefully express their views. And
that's what you're seeing here in Washington, D.C.,” McClellan said. “They're
well-intentioned, but the president strongly believes that withdrawing … would
make us less safe and make the world more dangerous.”
“I would like to say to Cindy Sheehan and her supporters: Don't be a group of
unthinking lemmings,” said Mitzy Kenny of Ridgeley, W.Va., whose husband died in
Iraq last year. She said the anti-war demonstrations “can affect the war in a
really negative way. It gives the enemy hope.”