The case went to court. It was a simple case of the Bill of Rights versus Private Property and--you guessed it--the Bill of Rights got creamed.
This is another illustration of how the privatization of American life threatens democracy. When the public sphere is eroded, so are basic rights. This is the theme of a book mentioned here before, The Fox in the Henhouse by Si Kahn and Elizabeth Minnich.
West Virginia already experienced her share of extreme anti-worker privatization in the form of coal camps, company towns totally owned and controlled by (usually absentee) corporations where workers lived in company houses, went to the company doctor when sick or hurt, and bought goods at the company story with company scrip. Often company control extended over schools, churches, and the flow of information (the post office often being in the company store.
Order was maintained by private mine guards in the interests of the owners and trying to exercise rights of free speech and the freedom to assemble could get you kicked out of your house and job...or worse.
There was no public sphere.
The ultimate extreme of privatization is slavery, where people are literally privatized, with no rights or public standing.
At the other end of the spectrum, a contemporary example of upscale privatization is the gated community, which in its own way can erode public spaces and institutions. People living securely behind the gates and receiving private services are likely to resent and resist paying taxes to maintain public services, which can cause these to deteriorate.
It's the same strategy being used to undermine public education and (so far without success) Social Security.
The attack on the public sphere and the transfer of remaining resources and power into the hands of corporations is ultimately an attack on democracy.
As Kahn and Minnich put it:
When a government established to promote the public good is "shrunk," so is the possibility of acting for, preserving, and enjoying the rights conferred and backed up by that government. This is obviously reason to be deeply concerned about privatization. But to understand fully what we lose with the increase in privatization, more of us need to realize that whether we have or lack public rights has great effects on all aspects of our lives.
If we do not have the legal, political rights that protect free and equal public lives, we also do not have the rights that protect private lives. And without protected private lives, our personal lives are not safe, not free.
This is adapted from an earlier post in The Goat Rope, a social and economic justice blog with gratuitous animal pictures.