The story here is that an Iraq veteran and the mother of a marine who did 2 tours of duty in Iraq were part of an activist organization,[ The ANSWER coalition, ] posting signs to announce a Washington protest on September 15. There was a dispute with the city over the posting of signs which they are fighting:
And so they held this press conference demonstrating that they were using the correct paste and that hanging signs was legal. A young cop, with way too much authority for his age, showed up and told them they needed a permit and they were defacing public property. Things went down hill rapidly from there, the press conference continued, the cops got all hot and bothered and the two were arrested.
ANSWER Coalition Press Conference in Washington DC
to Announce Free Speech Lawsuit Against DC Government
Statement by Sarah Sloan
National Staff Coordinator, A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
August 20, 2007
The Department of Public Works is not telling the truth when they say we have improperly posted signs promoting the September 15 March to Stop the War. The fact is that we have posted these signs in accordance with District of Columbia Municipal Regulations.
Specifically, the 65 Notices of Violation sent to us last week from the Department of Public Works claim that we violated Title 24 Section 108.9 of the DCMR which states that “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.”
Therefore, an adhesive can be used to affix posters as long as it does not “prevent their complete removal” or “do damage.” All posters in question have been affixed with a water-based and water-soluble paste. Volunteers have in the past removed these posters following events and found that they are removed easily and quickly.
When politicians campaign for office they plaster their posters everywhere and frequently in a manner that is not in accordance with the law. They are provided 30 days following the election to remove the signs. Frequently they do not remove them. The ANSWER Coalition will remove the Sept. 15 posters following the demonstration…. read on
This reminds me of the time a few years back when an old girlfriend and I were standing on a NYC sidewalk holding signs to protest a business that was ripping us off. We were not blocking anything or anyone. Just standing there, on a public sidewalk, holding the signs and talking to anyone who talked to us. The business called the cops who showed up and told us we needed to leave or be arrested because we didn’t have a permit. Baffled, we left the scene and went about trying to get this "free speech permit." When we got to the appropriate offices, we were told there was no such thing as a permit for 2 people holding signs.
That fact is that this is unconstitutional behavior but freedom is kind of an illusion at the individual level isn't it? The police were wrong in my case, they are in the wrong in this case and they were wrong when they arrested those two people with anti Bush T-shirts at a Bush event, but the people giving the orders don’t care. Those people won an $80,000 judgement against the government but they still got removed from the event. Mission accomplished for the price of a toilet seat in Iraq.
Nobody can challenge the police at the time, they are the authorities and they can taser you or beat you with clubs or even shoot you if necessary. They count on people lacking resources or being too intimidated to challenge them after the fact and, if they do, the government just says “oops” and uses taxpayer money to pay whatever penalty there is. I don’t know of any restrictions on a government from unlawfully arresting people and then paying court judgments against them as often as they want. The worst they will have is a pissed off comptroller. It’s a perfect workaround when you think about it. They basically just buy as many unconstitutional events as they want, and it’s not even their money.
Not to be cynical or anything.
It has been suggested that putting up this poster is a violation of the park rules but I would point out that they are not in the park. They are on the sidewalk of a street that boarders the park posting on a utility box. Cars are whizzing by. The mounted cop almost chases them into the street. This makes pretty clear to me that they are on city property not park property (as if that would really matter) and the law is very clear about the use of lamp posts, traffic signals and the supporting fixtures, such as junction boxes:
24 DCMR 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.The restrictions include details of how long the poster can stay up, the type of glue, the number of posters per block, the need to tell the city within 24 hours etc. If you follow the above link you can see the details. It is also interesting to note that The Partnership for Civil Justice has filed a lawsuit against the city claiming that many of the restrictions are unconstitutional because they do not provide equal protection under the law. Political campaigns can post for longer than 60 days. Community crime related posters can be posted forever. Grass roots organizations can only leave them up for 60 days. Forcing people to register also violates the right to anonymous speech which is also protected. Would you want to register who you were voting for with the state before an election? The same protection applies here.
So, I will say it again: This cop was a punk who didn't know the law and got uppity with a citizen because he felt like his little tin badge ego was being challenged. It has been reported that he is 35 so I will accept that it is poor professionalism and maturity rather than youthful inexperience.