MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A woman arrested for holding an anti-war poster at Auburn University - Montgomery during President Bush's visit last week was released by a
city magistrate, who said she was using her First Amendment right to free speech.
The woman was handcuffed by AUM police officer Chris Silvis with help from
two state troopers because she refused to protest inside a predetermined area on
campus, where other protesters demonstrated, according to the police report.
The woman, who held a sign reading "Stop the War!" outside the gym where Bush was
speaking on March 10, refused to give her name to authorities and is listed as Jane
Doe in court documents. She was released from the Montgomery County jail on the evening of March 10 when Chief Magistrate Patrick Murphy said the sign was a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment.
"I ordered her released because
nothing in the complaint indicated a criminal offense because there was no probable cause and she didn't commit a crime," Murphy said.
Her arrest and
Murphy's comment were first reported on March 12 by New York Times Co. regional
newspapers in Florence, Gadsden and Tuscaloosa.
Murphy said the woman did not
have to identify herself because there was no probable cause that she had committed a
AUM spokesman Lee Bridges said the officers asked the woman to limit her
protesting to the campus "free-speech zone" an area designated by school
policy for protests in general.
"She refused to move and apparently used
profanity. They were arresting her for disorderly conduct, not protesting,"
Bridges said protesters must register with campus police to
demonstrate at the free-speech zone, located at the library plaza. Bush's speech
was held at the gymnasium a few buildings away, where the woman apparently was holding up her sign outside.
The free-speech zone was in clear view of anyone
waiting to see the president, Bridges said.