The settlement ends a suit brought by a Texas couple and the American Civil Liberties Union, claiming the couple's First Amendment rights were violated when they were arrested and removed from a taxpayer-funded event featuring President Bush because their shirts read "Love America, Hate Bush" and "Regime Change Starts at Home."
Jeffery and Nicole Rank refused directions from event staff and law enforcement to cover up their shirts at a July 4, 2004, West Virginia rally featuring President Bush. The pair were arrested, detained and charged with trespassing. The charges were later dismissed.
The settlement, in which the government admitted no wrongdoing, came after the disclosure of an allegedly "sensitive" Presidential Advance Manual, which laid out the White House's meticulous efforts to protect the president and his public image from dissent.
"As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event," the manual instructs. The government turned over a heavily redacted version of the manual to the ACLU in the course of the lawsuit.
The first step to keeping demonstrators out of events, the manual tells the president's event staff, is to encourage the Secret Service to "ask the local police department to designate a protest area...preferably not in view of the event site or the motorcade route."
Inside the event space, the manual advises, White House advance personnel should preposition "rally squads" that can swarm any protesters at the event and "use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform."
The rally squads can be formed using "college/young republican organizations, local athletic teams, and fraternities/sororities," the manual notes.
The squads can "lead supportive chants to drown out the protesters (USA!, USA!, USA!)," it suggests.
In a 2004 investigation, ABC News found such tactics were apparently used by the Democratic Kerry presidential campaign as well. In that investigation, ABC News producers wore T-shirts featuring the opposing candidate to campaign-sponsored rallies. Bush aides instructed producers to leave the presidential re-election rally; at a Kerry rally, they were surrounded and followed by a team of dancing Democratic campaign workers with large signs.
The manual is stamped "SENSITIVE – DO NOT COPY." Its cover warns readers that "it is a violation of Federal law to duplicate or reproduce this manual without permission. It is not to be photocopied or released to anyone outside of the Executive Office of the President, White House Military Office or United States Secret Service." It is currently posted on the ACLU's Web site, and available here.