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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.

Originally posted to Plisko on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 03:08 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Last Friday, I called... (8+ / 0-)

    ...the DC Metro police to find out what happened. They said they were not involved, that it was the United States Park Police who made the arrests. (I also called the Federal District Court in DC. They only told me that Kokesh had been released "with conditions.")

    The park police press release is here. I called several numbers here, but could not get hold of anyone.

    I am a lawyer. Although many more facts are required to make a judgment, it smells terrible. This is an important issue. People should call the park police and demand an explanation.

  •  I'm gonna go into a corner and cry now (2+ / 0-)

    You know the one thing I always believed as a kid growing up was that people were allowed to voice their opinion to the government.  Now I'm no longer so sure.  Maybe it use to be like that, but in the past few years as I have reached young adulthood (I'm in my early 20's) it seems to be quite the opposite.  Maybe some of you who have been here a bit longer can elaborate whether or not it has always been this bad.

    I always figured this nation was founded on the very idea of the protest.  The ruling structure, the English monarchy, was no longer treating the colonies fairly.  So the colonials protested to the point where they had to use the most potent form of protest; revolution.  One would think that a nation founded in-part on this idea would not try to repeat the actions of the former ruling structure.

    Sadly, it seems that the actions of this nation's government are starting to prove a theory I have; that all governments operate in a cyclical fashion, not a linear one.  (Similar to the Mandate of Heaven in ancient Chinese culture)

    •  If you don't stand up, they do this (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrcoder, One Pissed Off Liberal

      and if you do stand up, they stop.

      No returns for privilege; full returns for labor! Labor has a right to all that it creates.

      by Mike Erwin on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 04:06:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  coupla things... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrcoder, One Pissed Off Liberal

      ...first, the idea of the US as a monolithic champion of "free speech" from the beginning is a myth - not supported by the evidence. Consider, for example, that the bill of rights was not included in the constitution until after its signing, which disgusted many, including George Mason, who left the convention after refusing to endorse the document. Also, consider, that "free speech" did not apply to the individual states until the 14th A.

      Well, anyway... US history has been about cycles, or perturbations. Things were very oppressive in the 60s, though I did not see it. (Born 1967). But even those who lived through that era that I've spoken to, say this is far worse. among other things, it's more far reaching and insidious.

      But, you can't lose hope. Keep fighting. It ain't over yet.

      •  The Bill of Rights (3+ / 0-)

        As I understand it, the bill of rights was not considered necessary because the founders believed that the constitution spelled out ALL the rights government had and any rights not listed were beyond the governments powers.  By this line of reasoning the government couldn't interfere with free speech because it was not specifically given the power to by the constitution.  The bill of rights was considered redundant by some but they decided to put it in as specific examples of the rights the government didn't have just to be certain.  Today, the attitude is that the government can do anything it wants in the name of protecting the public except those things reserved by the bill of rights. As I understand it that is the exact opposite of the original intentions.

        •  from what source does that proposition come? (0+ / 0-)

          There were deep divisions among "the founders" and among the (voting) population about the correct balance of powers. The argument you refer to was put forward chiefly by Hamilton (the staunchest Federalist). That a bill of rights was necessary (but insufficient) seems all too evident, no?

        •  Do these two sentences agree? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mike Erwin

          the government can do anything it wants in the name of protecting the public except those things reserved by the bill of rights.

          The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

          -- Tenth Amendment - Reserved Powers

          It's getting drafty in here. Somebody close the war.

          by mrcoder on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 06:46:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There it is. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mike Erwin

            I think that's what I was trying to say.  They agreed on that amendment as an additional example of governments limitations and it is still insufficient because today everyone seems to assume that unenumerated rights belong to the government, rather than the people.  Even with the bill of rights saying it's the people right there in the 10th amendment.

            I'll agree that there was much argument among the founders themselves and I'm glad the bill of rights won out.  Hamilton and the federalists may have been on my mind.

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