Monday, September 12

Lewin Update

As I posted here, Great Falls City Commission candidate Stuart Lewin was briefly arrested at the Great Falls Farmer's Market on Saturday. His offense? He asked people to vote for him.

The Trib covered the arrest on the third page of the Montana section yesterday, but did not put the article on their website.

In any case, the Great Falls police are calling the incident a "detention" instead of an arrest. After parading him through the Farmer's Market in handcuffs and making him sit in a squad car parked nearby (the police station is next door, why didn't they take him inside?), they released him.

Now, I agree that the Farmer's Market is not a public event. It is put on by a private entity that leases the space from the city. For that reason, they probably have the right to make their own rules.

However, it is worth noting that the city has a vested interest in maintaining the Market, as it is an economic and PR boost to the town. As such, they do not charge the Market a lease rate that is close to market value; they charge only $300 per year.

Is it a public forum? While the Market is certainly a great forum for potatoes and carrots, I am unsure if it is a public square. What do you think?


a-fire-fly said...

If Mr. Lewin were walking through the Market with no signs, buttons etc. simply talking to people, there would not have been a problem at either event. He has created the situation both times by going beyond "talking to to people" into "actively campaigning"

I support free speech, but I think he is creating controversial situations for his own benefit.

Treasure State Jew said...

Well, sure he is. That's what politicians do!

I am covering this because I think that the city is going beyond the pale in their response. Whether or not the city's response and all the coverage helps or hurts Lewin's candidacy is beyond the point, at least for me.

Those are all questions of tactics, and I am not on Stuart's campaign team.

GeeGuy said...

My non-legal opinion is that it is, in fact, a public square. It's not sealed off, nor is access restricted.

I disagree with Lewin's politics, but come on. This is the First Amendment. If nothing else, it is unseemly for the City to go so far to restrict the speech of one who seeks to unseat one of their own.

Treasure State Jew said...

The Market does, however, make some rules for access. For example, pets are not allowed. They also have firm policies keeping away any vendors that are not registered.

I think that the Market should be a public square. However, I think that the Market is within their legal rights here.

However, I agree that this is incredibly unseemly. If the Market were smart, they would have put a blind eye to Stuart's presence.

In fact, they have done so since June. Yes, Stuart was present at the Market each Saturday, asking people to vote for him. He had his signs and buttons with him.

I find it very interesting that the Market only chose to evict Stuart (in such a public and unnecessary manner) on the Saturday before the primary election.

Treasure State Jew said...

More on this situation can be found on gffirefly's blog, here.