In 2011, WHILE speaking with a Reporter about what had occurred at a protest, I was arrested
by Riverside County police officers. I was cited for municipal violations of overnight camping (no gear or intent to camp) and loitering (I WAS loitering per the arresting Officer “for more than 2 second and less than 5 seconds”). Nevertheless, I was put face down, zip-tied, and taken to jail.
(separate from the police that arrested me) did not want to press those charges. However, the DA insisted that I be tried for Unlawful Assembly under California’s Criminal Code 407 (yes, that IS different than the Constitution). And so the process of putting a chill on our First Amendment Rights had begun – after jail I went to 9 hearings in 8 months, turned down the plea bargains and, on the testimony of the arresting Officers in those hearings, went through a 4 day trial. Finally, the ‘criminal charges’ against me were ‘dismissed’.
To let the bells of freedom ring, I asked the City for permission to hold an Anniversary Party right where I was arrested… and where hundreds of people had gathered during the protests. WITH their blessing – though they recommended the amphitheater (as THEY thought that thousands would attend) – a Permit was granted.
TV, radio, the newspaper and social media all announced the “Gathering for Free Speech” – 12 Speakers, including myself, would welcome all citizens when most left work on a beautiful day here in sunny California. Even with 1 additional Speaker… only 6 people came.
Realizing the harm that had been done, I then pressed for this Civil Suit.
Shortly thereafter, in fact, the first night after making a plan for a 2nd Anniversary, I was ‘detained’ at Del Taco by the arrival of 3 Riverside County squad cars. As I spent time up against the front wall, lighted and facing the thousands (literally) of passing cars, I heard one of the officers ask, while I was being frisked by another, if I still remembered the Captain at the original arrests.
So, now – SIX years later – this trial with BOTH ‘incidents’ (the original arrest at the protest, and the subsequent ‘detainment’) is, finally, at hand. I wish us all the best, especially in these new times where having our Rights to speak out may be more important than ever before.
Scheduled from the 16th thru the 22nd, I’ll post updates on each of the days the trial is in session (there’s a weekend, and the Judge is at a conference on the 17th).