ACLU settles suit over book-signing incident

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Delaware State Police will train officers on free speech rights of protesters. They removed four women from a Rick Santorum appearance.

By Randall Chase
Associated Press

DOVER, Del. – The American Civil Liberties Union has settled a federal lawsuit stemming from an incident during which a Delaware state trooper ejected protesters from a book-signing event with former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.). Under the settlement, the Delaware State Police will adopt a policy and training program for its officers on the free speech rights of protesters and pay $15,000 for the plaintiffs’ legal fees, the ACLU said Wednesday.

In addition, Sgt. Mark DiJiacomo will write a letter to the plaintiffs. Former Santorum aides Ellen Melrose and Becky Barrett-Toomey also will send the plaintiffs a letter of regret and pay them $2,500, the amount they were paid by Santorum’s campaign to assist him on a book tour in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The plaintiffs intend to donate their damage awards to charity, the ACLU said.

According to the lawsuit, Melrose and Barrett-Toomey told DiJiacomo to remove four young women in advance of Santorum’s arrival at a Barnes & Noble store on Concord Pike in August 2005 because the women did not agree with the Pennsylvania Republican’s views outlined in his book, It Takes a Family.

The plaintiffs alleged that their treatment by DiJiacomo, acting in uniform and under state law, violated their rights to free speech and assembly, freedom from unreasonable seizure, and to petition government officials for a redress of grievances.

“The police are supposed to protect our rights, not to serve anyone’s political agenda,” said Mary Catherine Roper, staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20070630_ACLU_settles_suit_over_book-signing_incident.html

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