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Occupy San Diego Protestors Clash With Police Over Voter Registration

Evening Edition

Occupy San Diego protestors clashed with police on Wednesday, November 30, 2011, as the protestors attempted to set up voter registration tables in the Civic Center Plaza. This latest confrontation comes a day after police arrested a former congressional candidate in the plaza while he was registering people to vote. KPBS reporter Katie Orr has the story. Video by Katie Euphrat.

— About a dozen police officers gathered today at Civic Center plaza to watch over roughly 50 protestors. The issue is whether or not protestors could set up a large table to register voters.

The table is similar to one which former congressional candidate Ray Lutz was using to register voters on Tuesday, when police arrested him. Police said Lutz was arrested for trespassing. His table was set up outside a private office building on the plaza, and not on public property.

Today the protestors returned with the intent of setting up the table again. Attorney Rachel Scoma with the group Canvass for a Cause says the law allows them to do it.

“This is something we do every day under Robins vs. Pruneyard. That’s why we’re able to stand in front of Targets and in shopping centers, registering voters,” she said. “And so we have a very specific interest in making sure that free speech is upheld here in this privately owned section of the Civic Center.”

The police disagreed: Assistant Chief Boyd Long told Scoma registering voters was fine, but setting up the table wasn’t allowed, and could lead to someone being arrested.

“You do not have the right to have the tables here,” he said. “You do have the right to be here and do voter registration and we’re going to support that.”

At that moment Scoma used what protestors are calling the "people's mic," which involves yelling phrases and having protestors repeat them to amplify what is said.

“Mic check!” she yelled. “Officer Long has informed us that we will be arrested if we set up a table, as is our right, in this section of the Civic Center!”

The crowd echoed her words, amplifying them around the plaza. Protestor John Kenney said being arrested was something he was willing to accept.

“They’re going to have to do what they’re going to have to do. But most of us have agreed that we would go down over this,” he said. “This is free speech… To come and take us down over this would be hypocrisy defined.”

It was Kenney who finally put up the table. He put it in the same location Ray Lutz had yesterday, but today’s outcome was different. The police ultimately backed down, saying building management may eventually ask Kenney and the other protestors to leave.

At that moment the police walked away, and left the controversial table standing.

Video by Katie Euphrat

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Avatar for user 'Startaster'

Startaster | November 30, 2011 at 6:11 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

This is another small victory for democracy in the constitutional, democratic republic of the United States. The Civic Center plaza is the City of San Diego's official public square. As such it is the very representation of every citizen's right to free speech and free expression as championed in the first amendment of the US constitution. In the case of our civic center, this right of individuals to freedom of assembly trumps all claims by private business entities claiming no trespassing rights. The US Supreme Court decision reinforced the California Supreme court ruling as cited above. Consequently the city of San Diego, under direction of Mayor Sanders, the eyes of our city council and the implementation of police chief Landsdowne have violated both the spirit and letter of the law of this land. We must continue to seriously challenge the authority granted them in our name. This is a concrete victory for the national Occupy Movement and demonstrates its viability as a constructive force for a much needed renewal of our core American values of freedom and justice, trumpeted by our elected officials and political leaders in what has sadly become mere rhetorical ritual. In this case it has taken the actions of the people, the citizens of Occupy San Diego, to demonstrate the living reality behind these words and ideals. Let us thank them and let us join them, we the people, for showing that we can change society for the better by such courage and dedication. Let us come together and celebrate one bright victory for democracy and the will of the people. Many more battles lie ahead, for these are revolutionary times.

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Avatar for user 'writerink'

writerink | November 30, 2011 at 8:57 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

Denying people a table and chairs to register voters is discriminatory against the disabled, too. Volunteers should have a right to sit comfortably, as should people registering to vote. No volunteer should be forced to carry a day's worth of registration forms, pens, multiple clipboards and signs around all day in order to do their civic duty. I believe such a rule, prohibiting even setting down a backpack or box, would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act in addition to other laws.

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