Police took Nicole and Jeff Rank away in handcuffs from the event, which was billed as a presidential appearance, not a campaign rally. They were wearing T-shirts that read, “Love America, Hate Bush.”
Spectators who wore pro-Bush T-shirts and Bush-Cheney campaign buttons were allowed to stay.
“We weren’t doing anything wrong,” said Jeff Rank. The couple, who said they had tickets just like everybody else, said they simply stood around the Capitol steps with the rest of the spectators.
“We sang the national anthem,” Rank said.
The Ranks hardly fit the image of rabble-rousers. Jeff Rank, 29, has a master’s degree in oceanography. Nicole Rank, 30, has degrees in biological science and marine biology. They have been married for seven years.
Nicole Rank arrived in Charleston soon after the Memorial Day floods. She was working as deputy environmental liaison officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, making sure cities and counties obeyed federal environmental laws as they repaired roads and bridges.
After police arrested the Ranks, fingerprinted them and took their mug shots, FEMA told Nicole Rank she was no longer needed in West Virginia.
FEMA Employee Dismissed for Free Speech