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Shirt tales differ for Sheehan, GOP wife

Capitol police admit mistake as protester mulls legal battle

A House security officer takes Cindy Sheehan out of the chamber gallery before President Bush's speech.



George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Call it the tale of two different shirts worn by two very different women: a well-known peace activist who has agitated the White House and a lawmaker's wife who has staunchly supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan wore a shirt with the message "2,245 Dead. How many more?" -- a reference to the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq.

Beverly Young, the wife of 18-term Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Young of Florida, wore a shirt that read "Support the Troops."

Both shirts resulted in their owners being ejected from the House chamber before President Bush's State of the Union address on Tuesday night. (Full story)

Sheehan, an invited guest of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a California Democrat, was arrested around 8:30 p.m. ET on charges of unlawful conduct. Young was asked to leave but not arrested. (Watch what Young said about the profanity she used and why -- 1:53)

On Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said neither woman should have been removed from the chamber. "We made a mistake," he told CNN.

He said an apology was made to Bill and Beverly Young, and the congressman has been told that Capitol officers will receive better training. He said they are operating under outdated guidance on House rules regarding demonstrations.

"Just wearing a T-shirt is not unlawful," Gainer said. Wearing a T-shirt and engaging in actions meant to draw attention to the shirt is against the law, he said, but neither woman was doing so.

Gainer said he has attempted to reach Sheehan to tell her he is recommending that charges be dropped and to express his willingness to talk to her at her convenience, but has only been able to leave her a message.

Woolsey has called for a withdrawal of troops in Iraq and supports legislation for the creation of a Department of Peace.

"Since when is free speech conditional on whether you agree with the president?" Woolsey said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Sheehan told CNN Wednesday that she planned to file a lawsuit despite Gainer's statements.

"I was there for four hours," she said. "It seems like someone could have figured out they made a mistake in four hours."

Sheehan said she was treated roughly and left bruised by the incident.

"I'm going to file a lawsuit for defamation of character and because my civil rights were violated, hoping that it will never happen to another person," she said.

Before Gainer's statements, Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said of Sheehan's shirt, "She was asked to cover it up. She did not."

'She has a real passion for our troops'

Outrage also came from the pro-war Young.

On Wednesday, he held up his wife's shirt on the House floor and denounced her treatment.

"She has a real passion for our troops, and she shows it in many, many ways," Young said.

"And most members in this House know that. But because she had on a shirt that someone didn't like, that said 'Support Our Troops,' she was kicked out of this gallery while the president was speaking and encouraging Americans to support our troops. Shame. Shame."

Young and his wife are known as passionate supporters of U.S. service members. He has spoken in the past about their many visits to military hospitals during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and their efforts to ensure the needs of the wounded and their families are met.

Sheehan, on the other hand, was thrust into the spotlight after her 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq in April 2004.

"Cindy Sheehan, who gave her own flesh and blood for this disastrous war, did not violate any rules of the House of Representatives," Woolsey's statement said. "She merely wore a shirt that highlighted the human cost of the Iraq war and expressed a view different than that of the president."

Sheehan, a Vacaville, California, resident gained national attention in August, when she and hundreds of fellow protesters camped outside the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch, demanding an audience. She also recently penned a book, "Not One More Mother's Child."

Sheehan said Wednesday she was trying to "make a statement" with the shirt but did not intend to get arrested.

"I didn't think I would be provoking an incident," she said, suggesting that her message contributed to her arrest.

"I got arrested and [Young] didn't," she said. "What does that tell you?"

CNN's Ted Barrett, Eliott C. McLaughlin and Gary Nurenberg contributed to this report.

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