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Woman arrested in Bush protest released

By The Associated Press

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 crime.

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.

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.


Campus abolishes its free-speech zone

Western Illinois University rescinds policy after silent protest by about 30 students, faculty. 05.09.03

4 protesters acquitted in campus anti-war demonstration

Two students still face charges from University of Alabama that they violated Code of Student Conduct. 05.05.08

Free-speech zones

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