I've been doing some research into the arrest of ANSWER coalition activists Adam Kokesh, an Iraq veteran, Tina Richards, the mother of a Marine, and Ian Thompson, an organizer, for posting a protest anouncement on authorized public property. While I am not a lawyer, I do know how to find and read the civil code in question and seems pretty clear to me that these arrests and police actions were unlawful.
There is a YouTube Video of the outrageous over-reaction by police and the arrest that is worth watching if you haven't already.
ANSWER coalition also tells it in their own words.
In short: These people were at a scheduled press conference specifically to announce the legality of putting up posters on public property. It is unlikely that they didn't already know the law.
ANSWER Coalition had been cited for past violations of the city ordinances, which are about the details of their postings such as the glue, and the number of posters per block, not for the act of putting up the posters. The city admits that the hanging of the posters is legal.
These civil regulations are now being legally contested as unconstitutional for many reasons one of which is because the city code does not provide equal protection. Some organizations such as political campaigns and community watch organizations are less restricted and less subject to massive monetary fines than others. Partnership for Civil Justice is suing the city on behalf of ANSWER who is being fined $30,000 under these "free speech regulations."
The actions captured on videotape here appear to be perfectly within the city code when it comes to pasting the sign onto the junction box. The video very clearly shows them on a street corner, not in Lafayette Park as some critics have suggested. This overzealous police officer called in the cavalry, literally, and arrested 3 of them. He claims very clearly on the video that they were defacing public property and physically restrains people from posting even after these citizens explained that their actions were legal.
The Washington DC civil code clearly allows posting on "public lamp posts" and "appurtenances of lamp posts" which means the supporting devices such as junction boxes. The issue of past violations is irelevant. The actions captured on videotape look perfectly legal by my reading of the code.
I found the Washington DC civil code here:
The relevant part says:
108.4 Any sign, advertisement, or poster that does not relate to the sale of goods or services may be affixed on public lampposts or appurtenances of a lamppost subject to the restrictions set forth in this section.
108.5 A sign, advertisement, or poster shall not be affixed for more than sixty (60) days, except for the following:
(a) Signs, advertisements, and posters of individuals seeking political office in the District who have met the requirements of the DC Campaign Finance Reform and Conflict of Interest Act; and
(b) Signs designed to aid in neighborhood protection from crime shall be exempt from the sixty (60) day time period.
108.6 Political campaign literature materials shall be removed no later than thirty (30) days following the general election.
108.7 Each sign, advertisement, or poster shall contain the date upon which it was initially affixed to the lamppost.
108.8 Each sign, advertisement, or poster shall be affixed securely to avoid being torn or disengaged by normal weather conditions.
108.9 Signs, advertisements, and posters shall not be affixed by adhesives that prevent their complete removal from the fixture, or that do damage to the fixture.
108.10 No more than three (3) versions or copies of each sign, advertisement, or poster shall be affixed on one (1) side of the street within one (1) block.
108.11 Within twenty-four (24) hours of posting each sign, adverstisement, or poster, two (2) copies of the material shall be filed with an agent of the District of Columbia so designated by the Mayor. The filing shall include the name, address, and telephone number of the originator of the sign, advertisement, or poster.
108.12 For purposes of this section, a "public lamppost" is any public post erected for the purpose of supporting electric wires.
It is really outrageous that the police can just make up the law when they feel like their authority is threatened or because they don't like protesters. In my city, Phoenix, a cop was just penalized for flipping off protesters while on duty. He claimed it was because of his distaste for protesters in general. I can't help but wonder how the park police or the DC police feel as an institution about protesters. Their record is not very good. You could say they even have a "rap sheet" in this area already. The city might try to deflect this issue by claiming that ACTION has violated city code but that is not related to this incident at all. When this weak defense comes up it is worth mentioning that the city and park police also have past violations of illegaly arresting people who are excercising free speech. I am constantly amazed how many people have forgotten what it means to be American. It is a disease that has infected the very institutions that are supposed to protect that definition.
I also want to know if it is now an institutionalized government practice to violate citizen's rights with the expectation that they will remove the citizens from doing whatever it is they don't like and the worst that can happen is they get sued and pay a judgment in court with taxpayer money.
It's a little scary to think about an "unconstitutional acts" line item in a government budget.
More thoughts on that issue here.