More Police Harassment in Birmingham

It appears that we’ve had another incident of police harassment while collecting ballot access signatures in Alabama. One of the paid petitioners on Loretta Nall’s campaign called the Birmingham field office complaining that the police asked him to leave the local convention center. It was prime petition collecting time at the BJCC, as there was a crowd on hand for the local viewing of Taylor Hicks/American Idol viewing party.

The last time I checked, the First Amendment still read:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

As a matter of fact, this particular petition is required by state laws which were passed by Republicans and Democrats specifically to keep Libertarians off the ballot. That they require the petition but won’t let people gather the neccessary signatures shows just how tyrannical the system is in Alabama. I’m sure the Alabama media will pay far more attention to American Idol than to the fact that our most basic of rights are being stripped away from us.

Stephen Gordon

I like tasteful cigars, private property, American whiskey, fast cars, hot women, pre-bailout Jeeps, fine dining, worthwhile literature, low taxes, original music, personal privacy and self-defense rights -- but not necessarily in this order.

  1. Ahh… but therein lie the rub, SG!

    “The Right of the people to peaceably assemble” doesn’t include loitering — and of course you need to have a permit/license to be an assembly.

    “To petition the government” — heh. See, now, there’s a big loophole. You’re required to get 50,000 signatures *from people* not government.

    So they’re making laws requiring you to petition the populace to get ballot access, and then making laws governing how and when you can petition (Basically, never anytime it’d be useful.)

    Besides. That pesky 1st amendment only covers the Federal Congress.

    Ain’t it a bitch?

    (You should know me better by now…)

  2. Where CAN you legally petition in this country, if it’s not on “public sidewalks” and in or near “public places”? The BJCC is the Birmingham / Jefferson County Civic Center, yet if you ask the constabulary it’s considered private property!

    Move along, nothing to see here…

  3. “The BJCC Authority was created by Act Number 547 of the Regular session of the 1965 Alabama Legislature. The Act charged the Authority with the responsibility to construct and manage a Convention Complex.”

    So says their web site. Which essentially makes it a state-owned building. And you know how states like to restrict access to their buildings.

  4. Are you alerting the press each time it happens?

    And IanC, the incorporation clause of the 14th amendment makes the first amendment apply to all governments within the United States.

  5. Harrassment of petitioners is a huge problem in this country of which most people are not aware. There ought to be a National Right To Petition Association to defend our 1st amemdment right to petition.

  6. Dear Stephen,
    We might take a page from Vaclav Havel’s playbook in the Velvet Revolution of 1989.
    Like our own government leaders at present – Mikhail Gorbachev liked to TALK about openness and freedom (“Perestroika” etc.,) FAR MORE than the Soviet Union was really willing to tolerate such ideas.
    As demonstrations erupted in Prague in Nov. of ’89 – Havel remembered very clearly what happened that last time this had happened (in the “Prague Spring” of 1968): the Russians sent troops to put an end to what was a very popular movement at the request of a few communist party bosses.
    So Havel called Gorbachev and asked him to direct the RUSSIAN ARMY stationed in Czechoslovakia to protect the demonstrators if the Czech Government tried to quell the demostrations.
    Of course – Havel knew that would never happen: but by asking and publicizing the request – he made it difficult for Gorbachev to allow Russians to be used to SUPPRESS the revolution.


  7. To follow up…

    Perhaps we should call the Governor’s office and ASK for police PROTECTION to accompany our petitioners.
    Perhaps we should call Washington D.C. – our Senators and Congressmen – and ask that National Guard escorts be provided to protect our petitioners in this exercise of our most fundamental constitutional rights.
    Most importantly – after making the request – we should PUBLICIZE our request. Then, perhaps we can force our government into either explaining its behavior – or altering it to avoid the inevitable embarrassment of having to explain what IS NOT EXPLAINABLE.

    In Liberty!,

    James Hines

  8. I hope the petitioners in Alabama aren’t too proud to request help from the local ACLU (although its staff may not have enough time or resources to help).

    But one phone call can do wonders. I petitioned for Harry Browne in Iowa in 1996 at the Des Moines Airport. Airport security (pre-TSA, mind you) tried to shut me down.

    I was a freshly-minted lawyer at the time, so letting the airport’s lawyer know that may have helped. But my expressed intent to get the ACLU involved helped persuade them to let me continue petitioning.