…at least for the moment.
I don’t have the correct type of USB cable with me (not at home right now and it is a funky connection — we’ve got video, too) to upload to pictures, but I’ll get them uploaded when I can. The bottom line is that we just stood down the police. After the cops harassed one of our petitioners for collecting signatures (“trespassing”) on public sidewalks, we took the whole Birmingham team to the same corner to see what the hell was going on.
We called the watch officer of the UAB police and after being placed on hold for a long period of time, we told them we were on the corner and going to continue collecting signatures until they showed us some law which said we couldn’t. Sure enough, three officers showed up a half hour later and told us we’d have to leave. I got the name of two of the officers; the third stayed in the back seat of the patrol car. When I tried to walk close enough to the car to read his name tag, I was ordered to stand back.
CPL T. Coley told us we’d have to leave. When I asked what law we were violating, he seemed very perplexed. Then he said we were trespassing. We asked how we could be trespassing if we were on a public sidewalk on an open campus in the middle of downtown Birmingham. I asked again for them to cite what law we supposedly were violating so we could work together to find a reasonable solution to the problem. He simply restated his claim that we were trespassing on state property. I remember asking again how we could be trespassing on a public sidewalk on an open campus in the middle of downtown Birmingham. His eyes indicated that he didn’t even follow the logic of my question.
Around this time, Officer K. Woods [?] stepped out of the car and joined in the conversation. After explaining what we were doing, he initally told us that we can’t collect signatures because it is harrassing passersby (he didn’t use the word “passersby”; he did say something that sounded like “passerbys”, though) on private property. At this point John Slevin, the ballot access team leader, asked the officer where we can collect signatures. He was told to collect them in the middle of the relatively high traffic street. At this point Slevin brazenly walked over to the closest pedestrian and obtained her signature.
He continued to collect signatures while I spoke with the officers. One of them finally told me that we could collect them on a sidewalk across the street. I said there were no people over there; it would defeat the purpose. I asked what the difference between the two sidewalks was. He said the one we were at was state property. I pointed out to him that the other one was state property, too. At this point, he looked at Slevin (who was collecting another sig) and said he can’t do that. I said that we intend to continue to collect signatures until the police show us some law that we are violating.
I finally asked one more time what the difference between the respective sidewalks was. He never answered. I gave him a defiant look and just walked off. They hopped in their car and drove off. We collected signatures for another half hour or so on that corner, and at least two cops passed by, but didn’t harass us any more.
We stood our ground (and were all willing to risk arrest for this one), but I figure the incident cost us a thousand or so dollars in manpower.