“Do we have a Gestapo?”

Help! Look out! Here come the thought police! Do you have your bail ready?

I wondered for a moment if this post should be called “Free Speech #2”. A friend just forwarded the below article from the Eugene News about the arrest in Estacada on July 4th of Lloyd Marbet for gathering signatures in a PUBLIC park (I wonder why no local papers picked it up, what cowards!)  Her email was titled “Do we have a Gestapo?”  so I will honor her sharp eyes and her words with her headline.

Lloyd Marbet is a tireless crusader for peace and for energy equality. He has been a local hero of mine since he stepped up to oppose Trojan in the early 70’s. He then continued to work to force the closure of Trojan to end nuclear power in Oregon. He never stops challenging corporate America.

Hats off to Marbet for his ongoing courage – and yes, folks, our “on paper” liberties are always at risk. I wonder what would happen in Molalla if a similar “action” took place on city streets or in a city park? That’s a scary thought! Now I know another local town – Estacada – to avoid. My list of “where not to shop” gets longer every day.

I dare the Pioneer to start publishing the traffic stop logs of the Molalla police like they did in the past. If we saw those logs I’m sure we’d see a great case for random stops or profiling. For years as I read the logs I was appalled at all the tickets issued  for “failure to have proof of insurance” or “failure to have a license” with no other reason for a traffic stop. Either the cops here all had ex-ray vision or were psychics or else they were shaking people down just to look at identification.

Then a couple of years ago I was stopped for no reason and asked for my ID. The Molalla policeman looked disappointed when my insurance and licence were in order. His exact words of dismissal were:

“I’m not giving you a ticket. You came to a complete stop at the stop sign but you didn’t stop for long. You accelerated quite a bit going around the corner but you weren’t speeding”.

So to paraphrase the “officer” I did NOTHING WRONG but he stopped me anyway to check my ID!

I was so disgusted that I called the police chief to complain; he said “My officers wouldn’t do something like that”. Baloney! They did and they do. I always tell my visitors to come in the back way to my rural home so they don’t get subjected to the possibility of that kind of harassment.

Hey Molalla, that kind of “welcome” doesn’t help your “friendly” Molalla cause. My visitors avoid driving through Molalla’s streets as if they might catch the plague!

The public should realize that if they appear in any backwater municipal court like Molalla’s and are found guilty they can ask to have a REAL TRAIL for free at circuit court. Once the municipal court in a place like Molalla holds its proceeding, a citizen dissatisfied with the outcome can immediately request a “Trial de Novo”. The Trial de Novo will reset the case to circuit court where the proceeding will be a fresh start, showing NO DEFERENCE to the local municipal court finding.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS in speed trap towns like Molalla and always request a Trail de Novo if you don’t like the outcome. You can’t be forced to pay fines until the case is settled in circuit court. If citizens understand this right and take the time to go to court and request the reset to a Trial de Novo a lot of these shake down tiny bergs might think twice before profiling or holding random stops like the bogus one I was subjected to in the above story.

Whether it is Estacada or Molalla or any other small town these kinds of harassments stink!

What wrong with these backwater bergs?

Here’s the full story on Lloyd Marbet’s “experience” in Estacada: (quote)

EUGENE WEEKLY

UNLAWFUL ARREST

On July 4, the day Americans celebrate things like free speech, the Clackamas County Sheriff arrested Lloyd K. Marbet, Oregon’s long-time campaign finance reform and public power advocate, in the City of Estacada’s Timber Park for trying to collect signatures on a measure to create a People’s Utility District (PUD) in Clackamas County in order to get Enron out of Oregon. The officers on the scene refused to read or comply with the recent decision of the federal court for Oregon that cities cannot halt lawful activities in public parks supposedly booked by private groups. Marbet handed them the court decision, but they would not read it.

Timber Park is a a public park of the City of Estacada located on land owned by Portland General Electric (PGE) but under long-term lease to the city. A security guard told Marbet that PGE did not want him to collect signatures there. The park at the time was being used for the annual 4th of July celebration, open to the public, sponsored by the Estacada Chamber of Commerce.

Marbet paid to enter the park but security guards would not allow him to do so. Instead, they physically grabbed and held him. The guards also stopped people from approaching Marbet. The Clackamas County Sheriff sent two squad cars with several officers, who handcuffed Marbet, arresting him for criminal trespass, and transported him to the county jail in Oregon City.

All of the events at the park were videotaped, as the security guards tried to block the view of the person doing the taping.

“People have the right to collect signatures on public property,” says attorney Dan Meek. “Forbidding someone from entering a public park, simply because he is carrying a petition and openly admits his intention to collect signatures, is a pure content-based restriction on speech and is clearly in direct violation of Article I, Section 8, of the Oregon Constitution and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

In April, U.S. District Court Judge Ancer Haggerty issued a decision forbidding the City of Portland from excluding Edward Gathright from Waterfront Park during events sponsored by private organizations. The court concluded that the City could not exclude or arrest anyone “unless there is probable cause to believe they have violated a valid statute, City ordinance, or park regulation.” He ruled that exercising First Amendment rights in the park cannot violate a park regulation and that event sponsors cannot stop people from expressing views they disagree with.

“A city cannot ‘lease’ a public park to the Chamber of Commerce or to any other private group for a day or a week or a year and then claim that the park is somehow ‘private property,'” says Meek. “That would be like renting a city park to the Ku Klux Klan and then claiming that only white people are allowed to enter the park, because it is suddenly no longer a public park.”

Marbet, who says he had no intention of interfering with park events, says, “How ironic that I was arrested on the 4th of July for exercising the freedoms that this day is supposed to represent.”

Marbet was released on personal recognizance after being held for four hours. His arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 4.

“It’s mindboggling to realize how bad it’s becoming — this encroachment upon our civil liberties,” says Marbet. “It’s bad enough that the Supreme Court reversed themselves on allowing people to petition in shopping centers.” Now, Marbet says people are being arrested for petitioning near post offices. “That’s public property. What is going on here?” — Aria Seligmann

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