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How I Spent My Independence Day in Jail

I live in the country, 10 miles from Estacada, Oregon, and 25 miles from the city of Portland. Since September of 2001, I have been gathering signatures on a state wide initiative petition proposing to amend Oregon’s Constitution in order to enact Campaign Finance Reform. I am chief petitioner on this initiative along with Harry Lonsdale and former Congressman James Weaver. The political committee responsible for managing this initiative campaign is Money Is Not Democracy and I have been its Campaign Coordinator.

By law, we are required to gather 89,048 signatures of valid registered voters in order to place our initiative on the ballot. These signatures must be turned in to the office of the Secretary of State’s Election Division by 5:00 PM, on July 5, 2002. Since the Elections Division uses a statistical sample of all the signatures that are submitted to determine whether an initiative makes the ballot, it is important to gather more signatures that are required in order to account for signatures that may not be valid. Our goal was to turn in at least 111,000 signatures. On July 3rd we had approximately 105,221 signatures that had been turned in to us, and since we were still short of our goal we organized a petition drive to gather the remaining signatures we needed at the various events across the state celebrating our nation’s Independence Day.

One of these events was a widely advertised Fourth of July celebration being held at the City of Estacada’s Timber Park. On that day, my fiance, Cathryn Chudy, and I decided to gather signatures at this park after she got off work, since it was close to where I live. At approximately 4:30 PM, we drove in my car to Estacada and followed the signs along the highway to the park entrance where people were collecting a five dollar fee for parking. This fee also provided the occupants of the car admittance into this event. When I was approached by a woman collecting this fee, I told her that I wished to attend this event and collect signatures on my initiative for Campaign Finance Reform. I assumed that there would be no problem in doing so. She asked me to pull my car off to the side of the road while she checked with the head of security.

When the head of security came to the front gate, I got out of my car to meet him. He introduced himself as “Steve” and I told him who I was, that I was a Chief Petitioner on an initiative petition to adopt Campaign Finance Reform, and that I wished to gather signatures at this July 4th celebration. He told me absolutely not, that he would not allow me to talk politics and harass the people that were attending this family event. He also told me that this park was owned by Portland General Electric, leased by the City of Estacada, and rented to the people holding this event.

I told him that the City of Estacada’s control of this property made it “public” and that I had a constitutional right to petition my fellow citizens on public property at a public event regarding an issue that I considered to be of great importance. He told me that this was a private event and if I wanted to gather signatures that I could go up the road, in the opposite direction from the entrance to this park, and try and stop the cars coming into this event in order to get the people inside to sign my petition. At that point I called my attorney, Dan Meek, on my cell phone to seek his legal advice. During the course of this telephone conversation I was asked by security to remove my car from the entrance to the park and take it to an adjacent parking lot. I immediately complied with their request.

Following my conversation with Dan Meek, I decided to return to the entrance gate and get the last name of the man that I had just talked with. My fiance went with me. Since “Steve” was no longer at the entrance gate, I asked the security people standing there what his last name was and they told me they did not know. I was then asked if I intended to petition at this event. I answered yes, and was told that they would call the police and have me arrested. I remained standing in place with my petitioning material and eventually four Clackamas County Sheriffs showed up–Officers Napoli, Westerman, Rippe, and Zacher, two on motorcycles and two in patrol cars. Officer Rippe explained to me that if I did not leave I would be put under arrest and I explained to him that this was a public event, on public property and I had a constitutional right to gather signatures on my petition.

I was willing to pay the five dollar entrance fee but I was told by both the security people and by Tonya Phillips of the Estacada Chamber of Commerce that they would not accept my money. At that point I walked just inside the entrance to the gate to gather signatures and Tonya Phillips asked me to leave. When I refused to do so, she conducted a citizen arrest on behalf of the Estacada Chamber of Commerce and I was handcuffed and escorted to a police car with the Star Spangled Banner playing over the loudspeakers.

I was taken to the Clackamas County Jail in Oregon City and after being processed, interviewed, fingerprinted, and photographed, I was released from jail on my own recognizance at around 7:30 PM, approximately three hours later.

Lloyd Marbet is a longtime Oregon environmental activist and anti-nuke organizer and a founder of the Pacific Green Party. He can be reached at: marbet@mail.com

 

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