Last Thursday evening in Tacoma, one citizen stood up for the Bill of Rights and won....
ONE SMALL VICTORY FOR FREE SPEECH
By Marilyn Kimmerling
United for Peace of Pierce County
October 22, 2005
--Note: Last July, Marilyn Kimmerling of United for Peace of Pierce County decided to dress as the Statue of Liberty and go down to the Federal Courthouse on the evening of Third Thursday Art walk to collect signatures to send to our congressional representatives to let them know that many of their constituents wanted them to protest the nomination of John Roberts as the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The two policemen there told her that the sidewalk was Federal property, not public property, and that Lady Liberty was a threat to national security (!!!) and would have to leave. She was well aware of the irony, but was also alone, so she left. But she planned a return. What if five or ten or even twenty Statues of Liberty went down, were arrested, and photographed being hauled off to jail in front of our courthouse?
TACOMA -- Last Thursday, Oct. 20, was Third Thursday Artwalk and also marked approximately the fourth anniversary of the enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act, which was passed on Oct. 24, 2001. Marilyn Kimmerling had put out a call to folks to join her in going down to the Federal Courthouse dressed as Lady Liberty to exercise the right to free speech and assembly. Since five people had responded, the plan was to meet at the park & ride by Freighthouse Square, and then take the trolly together to the Courthouse, so as to be there at 7:30 for an hour or so.
Personally, Marilyn had decided that she was willing to go to jail for this if it came to it. She was "mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore!" So, after work, down to the park & ride she went, put on her outfit, and waited for the others to arrive. For what turned out to be a variety of reasons, no one else came but since she was all dressed up with somewhere to go, she headed down to the courthouse alone. She had a large sign. One side said BILL OF RIGHTS -- USE IT OR LOSE IT, with the rights listed, and the other side said IMPEACH THIS ENTIRE ADMINISTRATION. She took her spot in front of the courthouse as artwalkers went by. Once again the police came up to her, said the sidewalk was Federal property and she would have to leave. This time (on the advice of Sallie Shawl) she stated that it was not and she was not going to leave. The police told her she needed a permit. She responded that she did not and would not leave.
The police went into a huddle. They came back and wanted to know who she was with. She said she was with herself and within her rights. The policemen went into a huddle again and came back and asked how long she planned to stay!! She answered that she didn't know, maybe all night . . . and that was the end of the attempt at intimidation!! She stayed for a while, held her sign for cars passing, talked to people walking by, explained her purpose, and went home knowing that if one stands one's ground one (and hopefully the country) comes away stronger.
So, although there was no fantastic picture of a hundred Statues of Liberty being arrested for exercising their right to assemble and speak, take heart -- there is still hope in America!