- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan was arrested last night on charges of creating a disturbance inside the House chamber just minutes before President Bush began his State of the Union speech.

Mrs. Sheehan, 48, was charged with unlawful conduct, a misdemeanor, said Kristan Trugman, chief of staff for the Capitol Police.

Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a Capitol Police spokeswoman, said Mrs. Sheehan wore a T-shirt with an anti-war slogan to the speech, then covered it up until she took her seat. Police warned her that such displays were not allowed, but she did not respond, Sgt. Schneider said.

Mrs. Sheehan was taken in handcuffs to police headquarters a few blocks away. Her case was processed as Mr. Bush spoke, and she was to be released on her own recognizance, Sgt. Schneider said.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, California Democrat, gave Mrs. Sheehan a seat in the visitors gallery above the chamber where Mr. Bush delivered a 53-minute address to a joint session of Congress.



Mrs. Woolsey offered Mrs. Sheehan a ticket to the speech earlier yesterday while Mrs. Sheehan was attending an “alternative state of the union” press conference by CodePink, a group demanding the end of the war in Iraq.

“I’m proud that Cindy is my guest tonight,” Mrs. Woolsey said before the speech. “She has made a difference in the debate to bring our troops home from Iraq.”

Mrs. Sheehan, the mother of an American soldier killed in the war, is most known for staking out Mr. Bush for 26 days this summer outside of his home in Crawford, Texas. She was arrested in September with about 300 other anti-war activists in front of the White House after a weekend of protests against the war in Iraq.

Outside of the Capitol, several hundred opponents of the Iraq war chanted “Bush step down” while blowing whistles, whirling homemade noisemakers and banging pots, pans and bongo drums.

“Sometimes you’ve got to raise a little hell to have heaven,” shouted one speaker amid the cacophony.

Brian Higgins, 40, of Prince George’s County, said he brought his daughter, Sophia Barnett-Higgins, 7, to the protest so she could help bring about change in the country.

“She’s been coming to demonstrations for seven years,” Mr. Higgins said above the din of shouting protesters. “We came to protest George Bush. The Democratic Party isn’t going to take him down, so the people are going to have to. The state of the union is a state of despair.”

William Johnson, 39, of the District, brought his wife and his two daughters. The family carried a variety of musical instruments, including bongo drums and a tambourine.

“I’m here somewhat to protest,” Mr. Johnson said, “but for them, my children, I am here to teach them about bringing peace and about using music for that.”

The rally was organized by a group that calls itself World Can’t Wait — Drive Out the Bush Regime and included such organizations as ImpeachBush.org.

The group was denied a permit for security reasons to gather on the Mall, but later won a federal lawsuit giving them permission to protest near the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

The protest was preceded by a vigil earlier in the evening outside the Massachusetts Avenue Northwest residence of Vice President Dick Cheney.

The vigil was organized by several hundred area clergy and church members, who used the national focus on President Bush’s speech to protest the torture of enemy captives during war.

“We have to get the attention of the administration, and we’re speaking to the government on the night that the head of the government is speaking to his plan for the next year,” said Linda Gustitus, a member of River Road Unitarian Church in Bethesda who helped start the group.

The group, which is made up primarily of Unitarian and Quaker church members, formed in early December and has yet to adopt an official name.

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