After last week's diary we took our fellow Kossack's suggestions to heart. As suggested in comment threads, we got a copy of the Woodland's bylaws, we contacted various lawyer friends to try to get a handle on the labyrinthine tangle of public/private property laws and the rights of deputized voter registrars, we tried numerous times to contact The Association and their legal team (without success or returned calls), and we lined up our voter registrar friends from Organizing for America. In short, we studied up, smarted up and lawyered up, and we were ready to go.
The twelve of us split into two teams. We had four deputized registrars (a function that will be greatly incapacitated once Walker's Voter Suppression Bill is enacted) and two lawyers, along with two people with video cameras and still cameras. We are a mix of African American and Anglo activists, and built our teams around our diversity and functionality.
Everything went smoothly for almost an hour: pretty non-eventful, knocking on doors, asking if anyone wanted to register to vote, doing the paper work, and moving on. The shiny black security cars were rolling, trolling and visible, but we hoped that our respectful tenacity had convinced them to leave us alone.
A black car pulled into the cul de sac where my team was working. I walked up, and Security rolled down the window, telling us to go back to our other group. The police were being called. I had brought a small hardcover pocketbook, ostentatiously brought it out, wrote down Security's license number and immediately asked for a name. She wouldn't give it, and kept repeating, "Go back to your group, the police will be here!" We told her we would go after we finished registering this woman shown here with her beautiful daughter.
Walking back to the group, I was told by Marc that when Security first arrived on the scene they jumped out of their car "and came at us hard."
"Are you with The Playground Legends?" they asked. Joe responded, "We are doing voter registration." Security continued, "Will you turn that off, please... This is private property, I don't want you videotaping..." Joe responded, "We're invited guests... we are not doing anything illegal and voter registration is not soliciting." Security saw Marc with a camera. "This camera on?" Marc stepped back, said "I don't think so..." but Security came at him, grabbed the camera, looked into it and demanded it be turned off. "It better not come on again!" Security threatened.
John the attorney stayed cool and asked which policy we were in violation of because we were, in theory, protected by federal law, registering voters, and neither soliciting nor loitering. Security suggested we take it up with Management, and Joe explained the numerous emails, phone calls and faxes we had sent, all unreturned.
Everyone was clustered on the sidewalk, with Security standing watch. Upon arriving, I walked right up and demanded their names. "Who are you to ask?" was Lead Security's response. "I'm a writer," I said, "and doing an article." "For what outlet?" he asked. "For the Daily Kos!" I replied. He told me that they would not give me their names, and that we were in real trouble for posting a video of them on the internet without their permission. I deliberately looked at his name tag, which he tried to hide, and wrote down his name. I took his picture with my camera. I was tired of being pushed around.
We were told to wait until MPD arrived. A bunch of teenage kids walked through our group and cut across the parking lot. I heard yelling. All of a sudden, the security team began chasing the group of teenagers. The kids scattered and everyone was shouting. It was very strange. Though some of them lived there, they were accused of trespassing. The kids were trying to cut across to get to a local YMCA. I spoke with one later, and he said that happened all the time. If they were caught, they would get a very expensive ticket. Security told me that some of them were criminals. It is difficult to describe how strange this all was, or to know what the backstory was, if there was one.
The police didn't arrive. Allison, our other attorney friend, called them. MPD made it clear that they were not interested in coming to the complex unless there was criminal activity going on. I went and reported this to Security. Security said, "Well, then, do what you came here to do!" I told them that we meant Security no harm, that we merely wanted to peacefully register people to vote. He claimed that our presence there caused the melee with the young men, and tried to blame us for that weird disruption. This was a ridiculous assertion, and I gently suggested that it was an entirely different story with obviously different causes than our presence. We went on our way and continued our efforts.
Security did not look happy. They claim they will sue us for posting video. They drove by in their shiny black car and made a point of taking our pictures. But to reiterate: we are not interested in any kind of scuffle with Security. We hold Management accountable. We have no quarrel with workers doing their job, even if it is with misplaced zeal. The Playground Legends, in collaboration with wonderful activists from OFA, are doing feet on the street civic action. The potency and necessity of these actions is made obvious by the ruptures we encounter. The biggest rupture yet to come will be the Voter Suppression Bill, which will tear at the very heart of our struggling democracy. Now more than ever, we need to loudly declare our basic rights and insist that everyone in every community has a voice and a vote.
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