Brett Bursey goes on trial today for simply holding a sign that read "No War For Oil" outside a President Bush speech last October.
Bursey is being charged with the federal crime of threatening the president’s safety.
He is believed to be the first protester to ever be arrested on these charges for simply holding a sign.
He faces six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Back in October he was originally charged by the state with trespassing at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. But the state dropped the trespassing charges perhaps because they knew the courts would rule in Bursey’s favor.
In fact they did 33 years ago when he was also arrested at the same airport for protesting Richard Nixon. He was charged with trespassing. Bursey challeneged his arrest and the state Supreme Court ruled in his favor.
But much has changed since then.
After the state dropped the trespassing charges the local US Attorney, Strom Thurmond Jr., filed the much more severe charges of threatening the safety of the president.
The federal charges have not sat well with some members of Congress.
A few weeks ago Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank and 10 other members of Congress wrote a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft condemning the arrest. They wrote: "This prosecution smacks of the use of the Sedition Acts two hundred years ago to protect the President from political discomfort. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. We urge you to drop this prosecution based so clearly on the political views being expressed by the individual who is being prosecuted."
Today Brett Bursey goes to trial. We spoke to him earlier this morning.
- Brett Bursey, South Carolina man charged with threatening the president’s safety for holding up a sign that read "No War For Oil" outside a Bush fundraiser.