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Florida protesters sue over arrests at Bush rally

By The Associated Press


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TAMPA, Fla. — Three protesters have sued this city and its police chief over their arrest during a visit to Legends Field by President Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush.

A document prepared by American Civil Liberties Union lawyers said Janis Lentz, 56, of Tampa, Sonja Haught, 61, of Clearwater, and Mauricio Rosas, 38, of Tampa, had their free-speech rights violated and were unlawfully arrested at the public Bush rally on June 4, 2001.

According to the complaint, the three took signs to the event calling for an investigation of the 2000 presidential election and reading "June is Gay Pride Month."

Police told them to put away the signs or leave. When they refused and asked the officers why people with pro-Bush signs were allowed to stay, they were handcuffed and forcefully removed from the grounds.

"What police did was injure me for having a political statement that was not in tune with the current administration," said Rosas, a gay activist. "We had a right to be there to protest in a peaceful and respectful way."

Rosas said he was dragged down two flights of stairs and left with scars. Haught and Lentz said they were bruised.

Charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing against Haught were later dismissed, as was a charge of trespassing against Lentz.

The suit, filed Nov. 1, seeks unspecified damages and fewer restrictions on protest zones in the city.

Tampa police did not return a message left at their press office for this article.


Judge acquits Bush protester, scolds police
Pennsylvania man's disorderly conduct charge dismissed; police 'went a little too far,' judge says.  11.01.02

Demonstrators sue city officials after protest
Anti-Bush protesters in Portland, Ore., condemn use of pepper spray, rubber bullets; in Eugene, police reach out to anti-war groups.  10.28.02