Three protesters sued Tampa, Fla., and its police chief Friday for their arrest during a demonstration against President Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush. A document prepared by American Civil Liberties Union lawyers said Janis Lentz, 56, of Tampa; Sonja Haught, 61, of Clearwater; and Mauricio Rosas, 38, of Tampa, had their free speech rights violated and were unlawfully arrested at a public Bush rally on June 4, 2001. According to the complaint, the three took signs to the event calling for an investigation of the 2000 presidential election and reading "June is Gay Pride Month." Police told them to put away the signs or leave. When they refused and asked the officers why people with pro-Bush signs were allowed to stay, they were handcuffed and forcefully removed from the grounds.
"What police did was injure me for having a political statement that was not in tune with the current administration," said Rosas, a gay activist. "We had a right to be there to protest in a peaceful and respectful way." Rosas said he was dragged down two flights of stairs and left with scars. Haught and Lentz said they were bruised. Charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing against Haught were later dismissed, as was a charge of trespassing against Lentz. The suit seeks unspecified damages and fewer restrictions on protest zones in the city.