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Capitol Police Had Been Told to Watch Cindy Closely
Two T-Shirts, Two Messages and Two Capitol Ejections
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, New York Times
WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 — Cindy Sheehan's shirt on Tuesday night listed the number of soldiers who have died in Iraq. Beverly Young's shirt said "Support the Troops."
To the police guarding the Capitol, the messages alone were reason enough to remove the women from the House visitors' gallery during President Bush's State of the Union speech.
Ms. Sheehan, a war protester whose son died in Iraq and who spent the summer camped out near Mr. Bush's ranch in Texas, was arrested and charged with disruptive conduct on the Capitol grounds. She said Wednesday on a liberal Web site that she planned to a file a suit charging a violation of her right of free speech.
Ms. Young's removal came to light when her husband, Representative C. W. Bill Young, Republican of Florida, discussed it Wednesday in a speech on the House floor. She was wearing "a very conservative shirt, long sleeves, high neck," Mr. Young said.
"But," he said, "because she had on a shirt that someone didn't like that said 'Support the Troops,' she was kicked out of this gallery while the president was speaking."
Mr. Young said later that he had discussed the case with Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, "because George Bush and my wife have been friends for a long time, and I didn't want him to think that she just got up and walked out."
Mr. Young added that he had sought an apology from the Capitol police. The Associated Press reported on Wednesday evening that the police had decided to apologize to the two women and to drop the charges against Ms. Sheehan, who had been invited to attend the speech by Representative Lynn Woolsey, Democrat of California.
The Capitol police did not return phone calls for comment. An officer who insisted on anonymity because the officers are not authorized to speak publicly about their work said the guards at the speech had been instructed to watch Ms. Sheehan closely in case she sought to interrupt the event to gain attention for her cause.
At www.commondreams.org, Ms. Sheehan said she wore a T-shirt that said "2,245 Dead. How Many More?"
She said she was arrested when she took off a jacket because she was warm after climbing a flight of stairs on a trip to the restroom.
"I wore the shirt to make a statement," she wrote. "The press knew I was going to be there, and I thought every once in awhile they would show me, and I would have the shirt on."
If she had known she would be arrested for wearing her shirt, she said, "maybe I would have, but I didn't."