CRAWFORD, Texas – A judge on Friday dismissed all charges against five anti-war activists who were arrested last year on their way to President Bush's ranch (search).
The five were convicted in February of violating the city's protest ordinance and fined $200 to $500. But McLennan County Judge Tom Ragland ruled the ordinance was overly broad and violated the First Amendment.
The ordinance required 15 days' notice and a $25 fee before the police chief could issue a permit for a protest. Crawford officials have since amended the ordinance to require seven days of notice.
"This is a great victory for free speech in the president's own backyard," said Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project (search). "This decision guarantees that the free speech rights of other protesters will not be silenced by the city of Crawford."
The five protesters were on their way from Austin to President Bush's ranch to protest the war in Iraq in May 2003 when they were arrested and put in jail overnight.
The attorney for the five has said they were not demonstrating at the time of their arrests after being stopped by a police blockade.