Hey man, Bob was framed! He didn't do nothing wrong. But every time he gets the blame.

Another battle in the Rapid City crusade against petitioners was waged yesterday. And Bob Newland's freedom was a temporary casualty. Check out this story in the Rapid City Journal from Kevin Woster:
Well-known Libertarian political activist Bob Newland of Hermosa found a generally receptive crowd at the Black Hills Stock Show this week for his campaign to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

He also found himself under arrest for violating restrictions on gathering petition signatures inside Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Newland was arrested Tuesday by Rapid City police officers and booked for failure to vacate. He is scheduled to appear in 7th Circuit Court at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

"I'll plead not guilty and ask for a trial as quickly as possible," Newland said Tuesday evening after being released on bond. "My view is that this is just wrong. Anybody can go into those public hallways and talk about anything at anytime. It's owned by the public."
It's probably stereotypical, but all I can think of at the moment is Cheech Marin singing "I've been framed" off of the soundtrack to the Cheech and Chong movie "Up in Smoke" (Hint - check the judge's water for being filled with vodka - it could work)

To Bob's credit, the article talks about him possibly gathering 3-4,000 signatures for his trouble at the stock show. But from the last count, it still looks like his goal of being on the ballot is a long way off. The most recent count that the sodaksafeaccess.org website is recording is 7114 signatures. That's of the 16,728 VALID signatures they need to file by May 2nd.

Assuming all of the signatures are valid, which is nearly impossible to assume because there are going to be a few that someone filled out incorrectly, that's only 42.5% of what they need.

3 months left and about 9600 signatures to go. Will they make the 2006 Ballot?

Stay tuned.


Nicholas Nemec said…
I agree with Bob Newland on the access issue. It is a public venue, maintained with public money, the public should the right of free speech there.

If he can't collect signatures there does that mean that a candidate can't go to the local high school basketball game and collect signatures for his nominating petitions? The gym/school is a public building maintained with public money.

Getting enough signatures to make the ballot is an uphill task but not impossible. If there are 87 days til the deadline and 9600 signatures to go that makes 110 per day. I saw Bob outside a gas station in Pine Ridge and it looked like nearly everyone there was signing. Two or three dedicated people could knock this out easily if they go to the right places to get signatures ie places with big crouds of people milling around.

I'll give Bob the benefit of the doubt and say he will get it done.

PP, is this an even monet bet or you giving odds (in a non-gambling theoretical sort of way)?
Bob Newland said…
Let me be clear, here. I knew the Civic Center had a policy that "allowed" petition circulation outside but not inside. While the Civic Center could have chosen not to enforce its policy, it chose to enforce it. The policy was devised as a general policy for all City of Rapid City buildings and property.

When I was first asked to leave, I explained that I was challenging the policy and was willing to be arrested if they intended to enforce it.

Everyone involved was polite and calm. The police transported me un-handcuffed (very rare). I was bonded out immediately on Personal Recognizance.

I think everyone understood that the arrest was merely a formality necessary in the challenge and possible reform of a public policy.

Here's the issue. The City of Rapid City owns the Civic Center. All public property, sidewalks, parking lots and buildings are open to public displays of dissent, subject to certain rules designed to allow people to do business with government agencies or, in the case of fairs, etc., with those who have rented space to do business for a specific event.

The Civic Center maintains that it rents its floor space to the Black Hills Stock Show promoters and to individual vendors at the Stock Show. We could have rented a booth and asked for signatures from folks who came by.

However, expression of ideas and the asking of support for those ideas cannot be limited to those having the ability to pay for those privileges.

We maintain that there is a "common space", the corridors of the Civic Center, wherein a petition circulator can quietly ask people for help obtaining ballot status for his/her issue. This is delineated sharply from, say, accosting someone who is talking to a feed salesman at a booth.

The current Civic Center policy limits petition circulation to days and times when the temperature is warm enough to allow people to walk outside without gloves.

Thanks for the support on this issue, Nick.
PP said…
Bob, I'd agree with Nick.

You know that we'll probably never agree on the MM issue. But collecting petition signatures on property belonging to the people is a right that should be protected by law.
Anonymous said…
It doesn't seem even slightly unreasonable to me that the people who rent the civic center should be able to ask anyone they want to leave - whether it's some guy passing around a petition or someone breaking any other rule they have for the time they rent the place. You can't force the organizers of the Chicago St. Patrick's day parade to allow gay rights groups to march in the parade (down a public street), so why should we force the stock show to tolerate Bob circulating his MM petition in the civic center if they don't want him there? Free speech isn't an absolute right...
Anonymous said…
Sorry - not Chicago, it was Boston. Hurley v. Irish American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston, 515 U.S. 557 (1995)
Bob Newland said…
"Anonymous" likely chooses to hide his/her name because if he/she didn't, people would know what person to call ignorant.

People are free to talk to each other about ANYTHING in public spaces, with peacekeeping restrictions applied to those who act like jerks.

Simply because they carry a clipboard with them and allow folks to sign their names on the clipboard should not subject them to the peacekeeping restrictions.

It's a big leap from that to a parade organizer being made to allow raucous groups from ruining his/her parade.

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