Blog Posts

Splitting Hairs with the First Amendment

posted by
Filed under: First Amendment Issues

Jury: West Point Didn’t Violate Free Speech
22 July 2009

5299USoutWhite Plains, N.Y. (AP) — West Point officials who ordered anti-war demonstrators out of an Army-Navy basketball game did not violate their First Amendment rights, a federal jury decided Wednesday.

The jury found that the protesters’ message — they wore T-shirts spelling out “U.S. out of Iraq” — was not the main reason for their expulsion.

The eight protesters, admittedly looking for attention, stood in the top row of the bleachers to display their message as the national anthem was played before a game in 2004. Building manager John Spisso ordered them to cover up the shirts or leave, and when they refused, they were escorted out by military police, held for three hours and charged with disorderly conduct.

The charges were dropped a month later, but the garrison commander, Col. Ann Horner, barred the protesters from West Point for five years. The protesters, all from nearby Westchester County, sued both officials, accusing them of violating their freedom of speech. Each protester sought at least $50,000 in damages. (more…)