Wednesday, November 30, 2011
SAN DIEGO 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