DENVER (CN) – The 10th Circuit rejected the First Amendment claims of two friends who were booted from a George W. Bush speech in Denver because they had arrived in a car with a “No More Blood for Oil” bumper sticker.
Leslie Weise and Alex Young failed to establish that their mere “presence at the president’s speech was protected,” the three-judge panel ruled.
“Plaintiffs simply have not identified any First Amendment doctrine that prohibits the government from excluding them from an official speech on private property on the basis of their viewpoint,” Judge Paul Kelly wrote for the 2-1 majority.
Weise and Young were asked to leave Bush’s March 21, 2005 speech at the Wings Over the Rockies Museum in Denver after Secret Service agents spotted the bumper sticker on Weise’s car.
They sued a White House volunteer and a Secret Service agent over the incident, but lost in district court. The 10th Circuit affirmed.
“Although defendants ejected (plaintiffs) from the event on the basis of their speech outside the event, plaintiffs have identified no authority suggesting that mere attendance is transformed into speech or even expressive activity because of their speech elsewhere,” Judge Kelly wrote.
“Because it is plain that the constitutional right claimed was not clearly established at the time of the alleged violation, defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.”
Judge William Holloway dissented, saying the plaintiffs were “rudely, publicly and forcefully ejected from a public meeting” simply for expressing an opinion that government operatives disagreed with.
Holloway said it was clear that the bumper sticker was “the sole basis for removing them from the premises.”
“It is simply astounding that any member of the executive branch could have believed that our Constitution justified this egregious violation of plaintiffs’ rights.”