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Policing Is Aggressive at Bush Events

A spokesman said that the Secret Service strives to stay out of any confrontations or disputes that do not involve a security threat and that the agency is often wrongly identified as being involved in arrests.

"As long as there's no security threat, the responsibility for removing someone from the site is the responsibility of the site's sponsor," said spokesman Tom Mazur.

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During the Republican convention, more than 1,800 people were arrested by the New York Police Department; nearly all still face charges. There were only six arrests at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, but protesters complained that they were herded behind barbed-wire fencing far from the convention site.

Outside the conventions, a series of arrests have kept law enforcement officials busy during the campaign season. In September, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq was arrested at a rally for first lady Laura Bush in Hamilton Township, N.J.; she was wearing a T-shirt that said "President Bush you killed my son." The charges were later dropped.

In another well-publicized case in July, Jeff and Nicole Rank were arrested and jailed on trespassing charges in Charleston, W.Va., for wearing shirts with anti-Bush slogans during an appearance by the president. The charges were later dropped, and the Ranks received apologies from local authorities, who said the arrests were made at the behest of the Secret Service.

The couple has filed a lawsuit against the Secret Service and a White House official. Mazur declined to comment on the case.

As for Egolf, he and his friends were not dissuaded by their summertime arrests. The group managed to get into a Bush rally yesterday in Lancaster, before being escorted out after they began heckling, Egolf said. The group then reenacted its Abu Ghraib pyramid in a designated protest zone nearby. This time, there were no arrests.

"At least I got to express my feelings," Egolf said, "even though we were quickly silenced."

Staff writers Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei and research editor Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

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