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Vendor Arrested For "Impeach Him" Buttons

A 74-year-old retired mathematician who sells anti-Bush buttons at a Maryland farmers' market has become a symbol of free speech to some people. Others say Alan McConnell is a nuisance.

McConnell was at the market in Kensington as usual yesterday, selling buttons that say "Impeach Him" He has sold the $1 buttons for months; he told The Washington Post he uses the money earned to pay for "Impeach Them Both" yard signs.

Town officials had previously warned McConnell about peddling his political wares at the market (he is accused of being "aggressive" in his pitch), and had cited him for selling merchandise without a proper permit.

McConnell was also warned that he would be arrested if he returned to the market, even though it is public property.

McConnell showed up this weekend, when police arrested him and forcibly carried him to a squad car. A crowd of about 40 McConnell supporters booed the arrest, chanting "Free speech!"

McConnell was charged with trespassing; he faces 90 days in jail and a $500 fine

Officials said kicking him out has nothing to do with politics but with
fears that the atmosphere fostered by McConnell and his supporters would create a safety hazard. (Mayor Peter Fosselman even cancelled last Saturday's market.)

But while some critics say talk of impeachment in the halls of Congress merely impedes the nation's business, some vendors at the market say the hype surrounding McConnell may have helped improve business for them.

"The excitement has certainly brought a lot more people here, but not all of them are buying," merchant Keith Voight told the Post. "Hopefully, the protesters today will come tomorrow to buy."

McConnell's buttons might have some more takers in nearby Takoma Park, Md., whose city council will vote tonight on a resolution calling for Congress to impeach both President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Also today, activists including Cindy Sheehan, will march on Capitol Hill to the office of Rep. John Conyers, asking that articles of impeachment against the president and vice president be introduced.

Meanwhile, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a critic of the Iraq War, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he wants Congress to censure President Bush for launching a war without adequate military preparation and for lying to the public, and for what he deemed the administration's continuous assault against the rule of law.

"This administration has weakened America in a way that is frightful." said Feingold.