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Judge acquits Bush protester, scolds police

By The Associated Press


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PITTSBURGH — A man arrested during President Bush's recent visit to Pittsburgh got his protest sign back, and a justice who dismissed the charges against him also gave police a scolding over the incident.

District Justice Shirley Rowe Trkula dismissed a disorderly conduct charge against Bill Neel, 65, of Butler, Pa., and told Allegheny County police that they "went a little too far" in trying to curb protests, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on its Web site yesterday.

Police testified that Neel was arrested after refusing to enter a fenced area, designated as a free-speech area, during Bush's Labor Day visit to Neville Island, 10 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

County police detective Thomas Ianachione testified that Neel was polite and never used foul language.

Trkula said Neel had a right to express his views and returned his sign, which said, "The Bush family must surely love the poor — they've made so many of them."

Neel, who was defended by the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ruling was a victory for the Constitution.

"Sure, the president should be safe. But I don't think arrests like this help," he said.


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