Bush  Loses  Motion  To  Dismiss  Suit

Friday September 1 12:26 AM ET

NATALIE GOTT, Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Gov. George W. Bush has lost his bid for dismissal from a lawsuit accusing him of violating the free speech rights of environmental protesters at the Governor's Mansion.

State District Judge John Dietz on Wednesday said Bush, the Republican presidential nominee, could be called to testify when the case goes to trial. No date has been set.

The lawsuit alleged that Bush gave state troopers ``unbridled discretion'' to target protesters picketing in front of the mansion last year on a public sidewalk.

"We have now established one important part of our case and that is that the governor is not above the law and that the Constitution can be enforced. We still have to prove the rest of our case so we aren't done" said David Kahne, a lawyer for the protesters.

Bush spokesman Mike Jones said Thursday that security policies regarding the mansion were made by the Department of Public Safety, with no involvement by Bush or his office.

The lawsuit was filed against Bush and the DPS in August 1999 by people arrested and jailed on four different occasions. They were protesting environmental policies backed by Bush. In each case the Travis County's district attorney's office dropped charges of blocking an entry way.

Rick Abraham, one of those arrested, said previous governors allowed protesters to picket on the sidewalk and Bush is trying to silence his critics because he is running for president.

"Governor Bush is responsible, whether he told law enforcement officers to silence his critics, or simply gave approval with a wink and a nod" Abraham said.

Jones denied the accusation.

"Free speech is exercised freely around the Governor's Mansion and around the Capitol" he said. "There are protests that take place almost weekly near the Capitol and near the Governor's Mansion and it takes place in a manner that is not harmful or disruptive to public safety."

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