Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Sheehan Arrested Before Speech

By Clarence Williams and Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 1, 2006; A16

Activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested last night after demonstrating in the spectators gallery of the House of Representatives as part of a larger war protest that was held outside the Capitol.

Sheehan, who was apparently given a gallery ticket by a member of Congress, began to attract notice about 30 minutes to an hour before President Bush's State of the Union speech.

Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, opened her jacket to reveal a T-shirt that, according to a supporter, gave the number of U.S. war dead and asked, "How many more?"

She was also vocal, said U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer, and after she ignored instructions to close her jacket and quiet down, she was led out and arrested. Demonstrating in the House gallery is prohibited.

Sheehan's sister Dede Miller told a reporter that Rep. Lynn C. Woolsey (D-Calif.) had invited Sheehan as her guest. Woolsey could not be reached immediately for comment.

Late last night, about 50 protesters marched to the Capitol Police station to demand Sheehan's release. One of them was arrested. Miller said Sheehan was being processed early this morning.

Earlier last night, a band of banner-waving antiwar demonstrators clustered outside the Capitol and took the start of Bush's speech as a cue to let loose with an ear-splitting outburst of noise.

The group gathered at the statue of Ulysses S. Grant on the west side of the Capitol grounds for the protest, which was organized under the slogan of "The World Can't Wait -- Drive Out the Bush Regime."

At the moment when a nearby TV set showed Bush beginning his address in the House chamber, the protesters responded with bongo drums, maracas and whistles.

The protesters' Web site urged participants to "Bring the Noise and Drown out Bush's lies."

As the president concluded, the noise reached a peak as protesters banged pots and pans, shouting "Bush step down, people rise up."

At one point, demonstrators sang peace anthems of an earlier day, including "Give Peace a Chance" and "All You Need Is Love."

One of the speakers at the rally before the outbreak of tumult identified himself as Bill Mitchell and said his son, Army Sgt. Mike Mitchell, was killed in Baghdad in April 2004.

"We knew this war was wrong from the beginning," he said, "and we are not going to stop speaking" until the troops are brought home.

"We are going to demand that our government bring them home. We need to bring an end to this insanity," he said as the temperature fell and the wind gusted.

A speaker identified as Ann Wright, who had served in the State Department and as an Army officer, called on the protesters to organize for this year's congressional elections as a means of stopping the war. "We've got to put some spine into people who serve us right here," she said, pointing toward the Capitol.


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