Is it free speech to hold up an anti-Obama sign in a public venue?
At about 5pm Alaska Time, Thursday, August 26, 2010, security personnel approach Sidney Hill, a lone man peacefully displaying an impeach Obama sign near Pioneer Plaza on the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer. Minutes later, a crowd assembles, additional security forces arrive, and they physically assault the man holding the sign. He’s taken to the ground with force and detained.
An unidentified Alaska State Trooper arrives to physically disperse the crowd, and at several points during the conflict, crowd members yell in support of the demonstrator’s right to speak his message. The demonstrator’s personal firearm is confiscated by fair security, and he is held captive until Palmer police arrive to escort the man away in cuffs.
Sidney Hill was in jail awaiting a pre-trial at 1:00pm on August 27, 2010 at the Palmer Courthouse. He has been charged with Assault 4-Cause Fear Of Injury, Disorderly Conduct-Challenge To Fight, and Criminal Trespass 2- Upon Premises. However, according to the Valley Frontiersman newspaper, “Assistant District Attorney Trina Sears said her office decided not to prosecute Hill on the assault charge.” The Alaska State Fair, Inc. contracted security and traffic control to StarPlex, a firm located in the Northwest Lower 48.
If Mr. Hill’s demonstration was peaceful, then his free speech rights seem to have been violated, though we are not completely clear on Alaskan, county and city laws in regards to what is deemed a public venue. If, however, security personnel took Mr. Hill’s sign, by force, should they have not also removed the t-shirts of any fairground visitors who were displaying messages supporting political candidates or ideas deemed to be controversial by an arbitrary party?
Mr. Hill made calls for the media. But no one showed up – at least not from the mainstream.
Luckily, video cameras were present, otherwise it is likely that Mr. Hill’s assault charges would be pursued to the full extent of the law. In a perfect world, exactly the opposite would happen, and those who were responsible for the assault, detainment, arrest and falsification of charges against Mr. Hill would be the ones facing charges.
Hat tip Golden Foxx