Bob gets his day in court after saying that he won't "sit at the back of the bus"

I guarantee you that I don't support Bob's petition to Legalize Medical Marijuana. But I do support his right to collect petition signatures in the face of government entities trying to place restrictions on petitions.

Why? Because the next petition they try to restrict might be one I do support.

From today's Rapid City Journal:
Political activist and frequent petitioner Bob Newland of Hermosa challenged a civic center policy Friday during a hearing before 7th Circuit Magistrate Judge William Severns. Newland was charged in February with failure to vacate, a class 1 misdemeanor, for refusing to leave Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. He has moved to dismiss the charge.

Newland, who has been campaigning for the legalization of medical marijuana for several years, had been collecting petition signatures during the Black Hills Stock Show.

He said he had collected signatures outside the civic center during the first five days of the stock show before moving inside on the sixth day because of uncomfortably cold weather.

“I decided to challenge the civic center policy,” Newland said. “When I walked in, I knew what would happen.”

Newland said he made sure to adhere to the policy stating petitioners must be at least 15 feet from entries for safety reasons.

He said he stood in the civic center for less than half an hour, collecting about 20 signatures before civic center personnel approached him and asked him to leave.

Newland refused.


Newland’s attorney, Rena Hymans, said the civic center has historically been used for public assembly and is considered a traditional public forum. She said that means Newland should have been allowed to collect signatures.

Newland said he was told that if he paid for a vendor booth, he would have been allowed to petition.
Here's our little show of support to Bob's for his actions from the SDWC, and encouraging everyone to make note of the fact that he stood up and decided he wasn't going to sit at the back of the bus anymore.

Because tomorrow it might be your petition that you're not permitted to circulate.


Bob Newland said…
It's nice that PP supports the right to petition, and crazy that he wants to continue putting sick, disabled and dying people in jail fro trying to feel better.

It's somewhat analogous to a recent incident wherein a young woman was circuating the petition to refer HB1215 (the "save all human tissue" act) partially for the benefit of a Los Angeles Times reporter in Sturgis.

A fellow she approached said, "I am against abortion, but this law goes too far. I mean, what if a n*gg*r raped your daughter and she got pregnant?"
Bob Newland said…
I was arrested for asking a question. I was arrested for asking people, “Would you like to help us help people obtain medicine they need?”

On January 31, Bob Newland was arrested for “refusing to leave property after notice was given”, a Class I misdemeanor with a possible punishment of a year in jail and a $1000 fine. The “violation” was intentional, with the purpose of having the policy leading to the “notice” declared unconstitutional.

Newland was working the Black Hills Stock Show (BHSS), an annual event at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, So. Dak., circulating a petition to put the issue of whether doctors should be allowed to recommend marijuana for patients they think could benefit from it, and whether those patients should be allowed to possess and use marijuana, on the November election ballot in South Dakota.

The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center (RPCC) is owned by the City of Rapid City, built with public funds. It rents rooms and expo halls to private parties, and sometimes, as in the case of the Stock Show, is rented in toto for an event. In the case of the Stock Show, the BHSS sublets spaces to several hundred vendors, who set up booths in the corridors and exposition halls. Even in such in toto cases, admission to the RPCC is free, and people are able to traverse the corridors of the RPCC and do business with the RPCC, such as purchasing tickets for upcoming events.

The policy of the RPCC during an event like the BHSS, is to allow petition circulators to work outside the building on the sidewalks and in the parking lots as long as they are farther than 15 feet from the entrance doors. Current policy does not allow petition circulation inside the RPCC when a whole-building event like the BHSS is in progress.

Working outside in January in Rapid City is often less than ideal. For that reason, on January 31, Newland decided to test the RPCC petition circulation restrictions.

Newland’s case pivots on these premises:
A. The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center is owned by the City of Rapid City.
B. Defendant has the right to petition on public property within certain “compelling governmental interests” (public safety restrictions).
C. Civic Center policy allows petition activity farther than 15 feet from its doors on the outside of the building.
D. Civic Center policy makes no provision for petition activity inside the building during weather that is too inclement to allow such activity out of doors.
E. There is “common space”, i.e., the corridors of the Civic Center, inside the Civic Center building, within which petition circulation activity could take place while satisfying public safety requirements and while respecting the interests of private organizations or vendors who have rented space within the Civic Center.

Newland has, through his lawyer, Rena Hymans, of Sturgis, So. Dak., submitted a Motion to Dismiss, based on First Amendment grounds. The City of Rapid City and the State of South Dakota have both submitted motions in opposition. On April 7, oral arguments were presented to Judge Severns in the Pennington Co., So. Dak., court house.

Are you interested in helping to maintain “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”? If so, this case, currently being decided in South Dakota could help burn (or at least char) the state’s attempted abridgement of these rights.

To read the motions and look at the evidence, go to

Then consider sending Bob Newland a little financial help to defray the legal costs of defending the First Amendment for all of us.

Bob Newland
24594 Chokecherry Ridge Rd.
Hermosa SD 57744

You may also contribute via to Newland’s user ID,

So far, Newland’s legal bill has grown to $1700, which will probably be the extent of it if Judge Severns does the right thing and dismisses the trespass charge.

It’s possible that the RPCC will want to appeal an adverse ruling to the So. Dak. Supreme Court. In the event of an erroneous ruling by Judge Severns, Newland will have to assess whether he wants to appeal the ruling. In either of these cases, Newland’s legal bill will grow.

Newland said, “I find it ironic that the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center is currently asking the Rapid City Common Council for money to make renovations, including “skyboxes” for VIPs in its arena, while opposing the taxpayers’ reasonable exercise of their assembly and petition rights at the Civic Center.”
Anonymous said…
PP - How would you feel if the State GOP rented the Civic Center for a convention and the party was unable to keep those circulating a recall petition for Governor Rounds out (or any other un-Republican petition)? It's all fun and games until you rent the place...
PP said…
'Thats the breaks' for renting a public facility.

I was GOP ED in Rapid City when we had Dan Quayle there. The party's renting of the facility didn't keep protesters out.

Did I like it? No. But then again, I'm sure the Daschle people didn't like the College Republican's protesting Daschle on the side of the road out where he was having a fundaiser. Both were paid for by taxpayer dollars.

It's one of those situations when you have to consider what it would be like when the shoe's on the other foot.

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