Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Was State Fair Arrest Violation Of Free Speech?
A 10-minute YouTube video from the Alaska State Fair is catching attention attention after an Obama protester was taken down by fair security for what they say was disorderly conduct and criminal mischief. But others say the man's civil liberties were vio
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTVA-CBS 11 News) A 10-minute YouTube video from the Alaska State Fair is getting people's attention after an Obama protester was taken down by fair security for what they say was disorderly conduct and criminal mischief.
But others say the man's civil liberties were violated.
It's not the typical scene you would expect to see at the Alaska State Fair.
Fair security took down protester Sidney Hill on the fair grounds for refusing to stop protesting while holding a giant "Impeach Obama Now" sign.
"He was interfering with a show that was taking place there and he's wanting to put the sign in front of people," said Dean Phipps, of the Alaska State Fair.
The situation escalated with the crowd surrounding the security guards.
"He became belligerent and started yelling at the crowd and inciting people," said Phipps. "When he began to foil about and yell out them and scream and everything, we felt at that point it became a public safety issue and he needed to be escorted from the area and we resisted that, is when they decided to restrain him and that point he was inciting the crowd."
"He wasn't yelling, shouting or screaming," said Brian Standfill, a witness who videotaped the arrest. "He wasn't heckling the crowd and moments later security personnel from the state fair approached him and asked him to leave."
In Palmer Court Friday, Hill had an arraignment for disorderly conduct and criminal trespass.
Something his wife says is simply unfair for someone who was practicing his freedom of speech.
"He was just exercising just that, his freedom of speech," said Erin Hill. "They let him in with the banner that's in your face and then turned around and tried to stop him after they let him after he paid admission."
State fair officials say they are all for freedom of speech but there are rules in place to rent a vendor booth to do so.
"When you step outside the rules that we established to make this a safe environment and start interfering with program that we paid for to have for people to enjoy, you are overstepping those bounds," said Phipps.
A boundary, that is still a fine line when it comes to what you can say and where.
"It doesn't matter if someone assaults you, if you are not causing them harm you don't have the right to assault them," said Josh Fannon who is Hill's attorney. "The security guards assaulted him, it's clearly on the video of them taking him down for no apparent reason other than him holding the sign." "People walk around that place all the time with banners signs, clothing."
State fair officials say their property is private which is why they asked Hill to comply with their rules or leave.
As part of the arrest, fair security also found a loaded revolver on him, which is not allowed on fair grounds.
This is not the first time something has happened as officials say later that night they had to take down a person and remove a weapon.