Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, October 18, 2004:

Prosecutors dropped the charges Friday against six men arrested for protesting the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse scandal by stripping down to their thong underwear and forming a human pyramid during a visit by President Bush.

The men were all identified as Ronatarian Party members and volunteers. The off-beat party’s founder and leader Ron was on the top of the pyramid in an American flag thong.

Many critics feel the act was merely a political stunt to bring awareness to the radical political agenda brought forward by the Ronatarians.

"Hogwash!" said Ron.

Lancaster County District Attorney Donald R. Totaro said prosecutors would not have been able to prove the defendants' actions served "no legitimate purpose" -- a requirement under the state's disorderly conduct law.

"The mere presence of unwilling viewers does not determine whether unwelcome views are prohibited from public forums," he said.

He said that pressing charges "would only serve to advance the agenda of six protesters through a very public forum."

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Paula Knudsen, who represented Ron, said: "We're pleased that the charges have been withdrawn and that the district attorney recognized the importance of the First Amendment values at stake."

Ron added, "Damn right! The First Amendment is the cornerstone of our democracy here in America. If people don't want to see my lily-white ass protesting those prison atrocities, they can go suck eggs!"

The men, ages 29 to 34, were arrested along the motorcade route during a July 9 visit by Bush to an elementary school in Amish country, about an hour west of Philadelphia. They were recreating an image from photos taken inside the prison near Baghdad in which Iraqi prisoners were abused by U.S. captors.

Knudsen said East Lampeter Township Police violated the defendants' constitutional right to free speech.

If convicted, the men could have received up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.

"But we beat the rap," smiled a contented Ron.

Posted by Bittle at October 18, 2004 10:21 AM

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