4 protesters acquitted in campus anti-war demonstration

By The Associated Press
05.05.08

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A Tuscaloosa judge has acquitted four people charged by campus police with disorderly conduct for a Feb. 29 anti-war demonstration at the University of Alabama.

In a statement, attorney Allison Neal of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama said District Court Judge Joel Chandler acquitted the four on May 2.

The two-minute demonstration was arranged by the Tuscaloosa chapter of Students for a Democratic Society and was meant to advertise a planned talk by Jason Hurd of the Asheville, N.C., chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

The protesters, two students and two non-students, were detained by campus police for four hours, jailed and released on bond.

The demonstration began when the four, dressed as soldiers, entered the Ferguson Center and began yelling and cursing, The Crimson White reported.

Dean of Students Tim Hebson sent a letter to students calling the protest "disruptive," ''alarming" and "mimicking a true emergency." He declined comment yesterday.

The ACLU's May 2 statement said the two UA students still face charges by the university that they violated the Code of Student Conduct. The potential sanctions range from a written warning to permanent expulsion.

The ACLU and the Alabama Chapter of National Lawyers Guild represented the protesters and would continue to represent the students in their UA judicial proceedings, Neal said.

"We cannot allow the disorderly conduct statute to be read so broadly as to make it a crime to engage in free speech. This is especially true at a time when freedom of expression is so critical to our democracy," Neal said in the statement.