Friday, June 06, 2008

This is my friend

Mickey - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

From the StarTribune, an article about my friend getting arrested for exercising his free speech rights in St. Paul:

St. Paul police to apologize for detaining antiwar activist

Last update: June 5, 2008 - 11:54 PM

St. Paul police said Thursday that they will apologize to an antiwar organizer who was detained Tuesday outside the Obama campaign rally at the Xcel Energy Center for handing out leaflets promoting a Sept. 1 march on the Republican National Convention.

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota said the arrest of Mick Kelly, 50, of Minneapolis, does not augur well for the way authorities will treat protesters during the convention.

"We're concerned the police so quickly violated Mick Kelly's First Amendment rights," Charles Samuelson said.

Mayor Chris Coleman said Thursday that he did not think the arrest presages anything about how convention protests will go. "It just says we need to educate our officers," he said. "The First Amendment is a core value of me as mayor and [John] Harrington as [police] chief.

Coleman praised police for moving quickly "to correct what was a mistake." He added, "We are going to move quickly to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Tom Walsh, a St. Paul police spokesman, said police initially believed that Kelly's leaflet distribution was in violation of an ordinance that prohibits peddling within a certain distance of the Xcel Center.

"But it's not," he said. "It's a free speech issue. He wasn't selling or vending, so in this case he was within his rights."

The citation will be dismissed, Walsh said, and the event commander, Cmdr. Joe Neuberger, will apologize to Kelly. Walsh said free speech issues will be part of the training officers receive for the convention. That training has begun but has not been completed, he said.

Walsh said there were no other arrests at the event. Peddlers (who had been selling campaign souvenirs) who were within the radius of the ordinance were asked to move and did, he said.

"It was an impromptu event," Walsh said. "A limited amount of resources were available. ... The safety and security of people attending the event was our priority."


Pioneer Press article

Protester wrongly cited by police
City to apologize to man leafleting at Obama rally

By Tad Vezner
Article Last Updated: 06/06/2008 01:20:57 AM CDT

St. Paul police plan to apologize to a protester who was given a citation and placed in a squad car outside the Xcel Energy Center for handing out fliers promoting an anti-war rally during the upcoming Republican National Convention.

Mick Kelly, of Minneapolis, was detained Tuesday just before Sen. Barack Obama gave his speech claiming the Democratic nomination for president, according to Charles Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.

Kelly was cited with scalping, Samuelson said; police records indicate he was cited for "soliciting and peddling."

"There weren't any tickets (being scalped). That's interesting, in and of itself," Samuelson said.

Kelly is a spokesman for the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War and was handing out fliers for a protest scheduled for Sept. 1, Labor Day. He has also been active in trying to lay out what he considers an acceptable, more prominent protest route during the Republican convention, which will be held Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel arena.

"Mick gets arrested for handing out clearly protected information in a clearly protected area. That concerns us: How many people are going to get arrested on Labor Day? For what? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Who knows?" Samuelson said.

Teresa Nelson, legal counsel for the ACLU, happened to be standing beside Kelly when he was detained.

"Sort of ugly luck for the cops," Samuelson said. He said Kelly was placed in a squad car but later released.

As of Thursday evening, the citation was dismissed and the event commander, Joe Neuberger, had contacted the ACLU to try to get Kelly's phone number to apologize, Samuelson said.

Samuelson added that he had yet to reach Kelly on Thursday evening.

Mayor Chris Coleman also expressed his apologies Thursday.

"It's pretty clear that we made a mistake, that he should not have been given a citation. We do apologize and are taking steps to make sure it doesn't happen again," Coleman said.

"I, as mayor, and the (Police) Chief (John Harrington) take the First Amendment very seriously. It's something we both believe in very strongly."

Coleman said he had assurances from Harrington that the citation against Kelly was dropped and that an apology would be made.

Tom Walsh, the police spokesman handling RNC issues, could not be reached for comment Thursday evening. Another police spokesman said Thursday evening that he knew only of the initial citation, but nothing related to the subsequent fallout.

Coleman said police will receive "a lot more training" on First Amendment issues and "more clarity about what the ordinance allows."

The city ordinance in question was Ordinance 345.08, which in part prohibits peddling "within one hundred (100) feet of an entrance to an entertainment venue within three (3) hours of an event scheduled at that entertainment venue," and also "within the State Capitol complex buildings and grounds and the Saint Paul River Centre complex buildings, grounds and surrounding sidewalks."

"(The incident) was a bad thing to do, especially when you've been telling everybody for 14 months how in support of the First Amendment you are," Samuelson said.

Tad Vezner can be reached at 651-228-5461.