Confiscating the Constitution

If nothing else, this illustrates how the celebration of an event can become more about the tradition of celebrating than about the event itself:

In a temper-filled tempest, the Bristol Fourth of July Committee has barred the Rhode Island Tea Party from taking part in the annual Independence Day parade next year — or any other year.
Marina Peterson, treasurer of the organization — it opposes government spending and new taxes — said she was told “not to waste the stamp to send in an application” to appear again in the Bristol parade, which the town says dates to 1785 as the oldest continuously observed Fourth of July celebration in the nation.
In the latest march, on Saturday, Tea Party sympathizers handed out copies of the U.S. Constitution as they ran alongside the organization’s first-ever float, a replica of the Beaver, the British ship ransacked by Colonists during the Boston Tea Party, in 1773.

Sounds to me — especially with the RI Tea Party’s account in mind — like a local somebody wanted an excuse to exert petty power over a disfavored group — disfavored by those in the staid, corrupt establishment — and took the handouts as an excuse. A more reasonable, civilized approach to dealing with a new participant’s inadvertent rule breaking would be a sort of probation at next year’s parade. Otherwise one ends up with shocking symbolism like this:

“They endangered public safety,” he said. [Float Committee Chairmain Jim] Tavares said he personally confiscated some of the handouts.

Confiscating the Constitution… at the nation’s oldest Independence Day parade. Tea Party Treasurer Marina Peterson says that the rules prohibit “solicitation,” which does not describe complimentary copies of our founding legal document. Mr. Tavares calls that word games. I expect King George would have agreed; the rules listed online state that “Soliciting along the parade route is illegal unless a license has been obtained from the Fourth of July Committee.” Apparently, safety concerns are alleviated through payment of a license tax.
Incidentally, the Bristol Fourth of July Committee’s Web site has a wealth of information, such as the general chairman’s and parade chairwoman’s email addresses.
ADDENDUM:
The conversation continues here and here.

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Monique
Editor
11 years ago

Couple of (conflicting) points.
Handouts from floats are prohibited because of the danger posed parade attendees running up to the float. However, apparently, people were not handing them out from this float but by walking along side, almost in the crowd, as it were.
Additionally, a woman on the DePetro show this morning said that at least one other float was handing things out. Was that float upbraided during the parade for doing so? And will a member of the parade committee be calling that organization and reducing someone to tears for their violation?

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

I guess what I don’t understand is how is handing out photocopies of the US Constitution considered “soliciting”? I would think the intent of the rule is to prevent every parade entrant from carrying their own bucket brigade and begging for spare change along the way. That’s solicitation, not handing out copies of official US documents. Isn’t there something in the definition of solicitation that you get something in return? If there was nothing on the copies about the RI Tea Party group, then what would they have been expecting in return? Simply a more educated voter?
Clearly the RITP has rankled some feathers and has some people in the state worried. I think this is the best reaction they could have gotten. Now they know that all the slime hiding in the corners and shadows of the State House are actually afraid of what the RITP is capable of.

steadman
steadman
11 years ago

any attention is good attention. Are the motives of the bristol parade committee honest? I dont know and to be honest i don’t care, but to be fair they are volunteers and its a hard job i assume. Its easy for everyone to get up in arms, but try volunteering your time for such an event. Im not excusing what may be a politically motivated hitjob on the teabaggers, but come on. Maybe if instead of trying to get everyone angry about being banned from a parade, they can spend more effort getting people angry about the reckless,criminally inept general assembly. As someone whos been hit by the rules numerous times, when its made clear you can’t hand anything out why push it? Don’t allow them the chance to kick you out, follow the rules to a T. Who cares if anyone else did it, it doenst make a difference. If i get pulled over for speeding and i claim other drivers are speeding on the same road, I’d get a dirty look and a ticket regardless. They know they are under attack from the status quo and those in power, they should take every precaution to make sure they do everything by the book even if unfair. Spend more time spreading actual awareness to the voters of this state, outline your positions, create a bigger wave of public attention to the cause. Thats what these people should be doing. Holding rallys every so often wont cut it, the voters in this state are too apathetic and frankly too moronic. Having protests is only a small fraction of what its going to take, and headlines such as this are only useful in that they get more media attention.

bobc
bobc
11 years ago

I was there at the parade. I was riding in the truck that pulled the Tea Party float. I helped design and build the float. There was no one from the Tea Party handing out solicitations (the parade committee’s umbrella word for any handouts). What happened is this; there were folks on and around our float that wore the same Gadison flag type t-shirts as those in the We the People group. These shirts are sold by the We the People organization. We the People supporters show up everywhere and anywhere they can to pass out copies of the constitution (not that there’s anything wrong with that). That group was handing out copies of the Constitution. Perhaps the parade committee assumed that because they were wearing the same shirts that they were with the float. They should own up to that presumption and make amends.

Matt Jerzyk
Matt Jerzyk
11 years ago

The truth shall set you free!
Read about it here:
http://www.rifuture.org/diary/6857/at-any-rate-ill-never-go-there-again
YES! When you ask for donations and for membership that is considered a “solicitation!”

bobc
bobc
11 years ago

leave it up to ristupor to get it wrong.

steadman
steadman
11 years ago

i dont know, if its true it sort of sinks that whole “non-solicitation” excuse.
“Tea Party Treasurer Marina Peterson says that the rules prohibit “solicitation,” which does not describe complimentary copies of our founding legal document”
So they did know the non soliciation rule, however they chose to distribute constitutions produced/asking for donations for the heritage foundation. Couldn’t suitable constitution books be acquired in other means to MAKE SURE that this wouldn’t come back to bite them? If it wasn’t the teabaggers like georges suggest, this is a pointless conversation. However,given the facts, it looks like the baggers knew and pressed there luck. Its still garbage to ban a group for handing out a CONSTITUTION on THE FOURTH OF JULY regardless. If this sort of thing keeps up, The baggers need to watch out before Obama pulls a George Washington ala Whiskey Rebellion.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Assuming the books are the same as were handed out at the tax day tea party protest, that is a very misleading characterization of them… the sort of thing that illustrates the detriment of lawyers’ leading role in this country.
The Heritage logo appears on the back cover, as one might expect from the publisher of a book. The inside cover has a brief “About the Heritage Foundation” summary, and the very last page (47/48) is a membership form. Many pop fiction novels (and almost all magazines) are more heavily laden with such advertising, and it’s inconceivable that anybody would declare it solicitation to make them available for free.
By contrast, the parade’s rules (as posted online) are clearly directed at vendors selling wares on the spot. Unless there were Heritage members with their hands out, this hardly qualifies. And at the very least, the claim that the tea party float endangered the public is ludicrous, considering that there wouldn’t even have been the opportunity for the complaint if they’d paid the vendor fee.
Frankly, I’d be surprised if the Tea Party folks don’t have a legitimate First Amendment complaint against the parade committee. If one cannot give out free literature on a public street — especially when that literature is a book presenting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the event is an Independence Day parade — we’ve gone a long way into the pit, indeed.

Scoopster
Scoopster
11 years ago

The issue is actually one of safety. The rule is in place because in the past, children have run into the street during the parade and could have been hurt. This rule applies to ANY handout – whether it be candy, party favors, or a flyer. It doesn’t matter that the flyer is a copy of the Constitution or even a copy of the parade’s own yearly program. You can’t hand stuff out – period.

brassband
brassband
11 years ago

Well, it does seem fairly absurd to prohibit distribution of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence at a July 4 parade . . .
But having been involved in management of a parade in the distant past, I think the parade committee should be cut some slack.
First, whatever the item is that is being distributed, it does present safety problems. Spectators (adults and children) along the route will be tempted to approach the people distributing the item, regardless what it is.
If the parade managers have insurance, their policy may require them to prohibit distribution of items along the route for safety reasons.
Absolute prohibition is content-neutral and appears directed toward safety of the participants rather than limiting any particular type of communication.
If the parade committee OKs distribution of these items, then they really have to permit distribution of any other items or risk a content-based challenge.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

Additionally, a woman on the DePetro show this morning said that at least one other float was handing things out. Was that float upbraided during the parade for doing so? And will a member of the parade committee be calling that organization and reducing someone to tears for their violation?
Posted by Monique at July 9, 2009 8:10 AM
Please tell me it wasn’t Tom Wah Wah that was reduced to tears. Please remember that the people that took part in the events that are being evocked by the teabaggers were not reduced to tears about anything as trivial as what you are discussing.
Frankly, I’d be surprised if the Tea Party folks don’t have a legitimate First Amendment complaint against the parade committee.
That was Justin. People being waterboarded … no problem. Presidents asserting new powers at times of war .. what me worry, but tea baggers being dissed by the parade committee… oh my god. Keep up the good work you vigilant guardians at AR.

kathy
kathy
11 years ago

I guess if you are Frank Caprio or another float it’s ok to hand things out. Just because another group hands out Constitution (God forbid) on the 4th of July near your float doesn’t mean it’s your people. I suppose if they were handing out the Communist Manifesto, that would work out better for the parade committee.
I agree with Justin, the Tea Party folks might have a First Amendment fight here.

rhody
rhody
11 years ago

The teabaggers should’ve done the Ancients and Horribles Parade on Glocester instead. There, political folderol is not only allowed, it’s encouraged.

Matt Jerzyk
Matt Jerzyk
11 years ago

Justin –
I am glad that you agree that the Heritage Foundation’s publication handed out at the Parade in fact solicit membership.
The noun form of “solicit” is “solicitation” which was of course prohibited in the parade.
Can we expect a correction to your blog post shortly?

bobc
bobc
11 years ago

Matt,
Again, you entirely miss the point (I don’t question it is concious). I will not argue semantics with you but I will argue facts. The tea party folks, the one’s that agreed to the terms and conditions of the parade, did not, I repeat, did not hand out the pamphlets. Another group did! How is that so difficult for you to understand.
Brassband,
While I agree that children running into the street is a safety problem, they were doing it anyway. Teens were walking in formation with the bands. Isn’t that a safety issue also. Our truck had to come to an abrupt halt in order to avoid hitting someone who walked directly in front of us, nearly toppling everyone standing on our float. Besides those handing out the pamphlets were doing so in the crowd.
Justin,
No correction needed for your post.

Scoopster
Scoopster
11 years ago

Another group that just happened to be wearing the same shirts as the people on the float.. Yeaaaah okay there. I believe that one about as much as I believe the people now harassing Mr. Tavares day and night have nothing to do with Peterson even though she email-blasted his cell phone number across the country.

David
David
11 years ago

bobc says “I will not argue semantics with you but I will argue facts. The tea party folks, the one’s that agreed to the terms and conditions of the parade, did not, I repeat, did not hand out the pamphlets. Another group did!”
Well bobc, here is a youtube posting during the parade:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RWSjIudmOo&feature=related
To the right you can see the “other group” that is handing out things. Looks like they are with the Tea Party folks to me. Certainly during the 45 seconds of video noone from the float or behind stopped them. Also as pointed out on Projo posts, the guy with the back pack is pictured with the group in front of the boat here:
http://riteaparty.net/wp-content/uploads/paradegroup21.jpg
And handing out more than just the Constitution here (7th photo down):
http://www.resistnet.com/group/rhodeislandresistance
Seems to me your group is culpable at least in part.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Well, I will argue semantics, because I’m inclined to argue Matt’s meaning. First, I offer the disclaimer that there may be rules that I haven’t seen; I’m going only from those listed online, as described in my post.
“Solicitation” has a variety of meanings, including some that would have been beyond the constitutional authority of the parade committee to ban. Shouts of: “Vote for freedom!” would count as solicitation. The very fact the rules make an exception for folks who register for a vendor’s license indicates what sort of “solicitation” is meant.
The fact that a small portion of the book (2 pages, 40%) contained a membership form that could reasonably be construed, colloquially, as a “solicitation” does not mean that the act of handing out the books was, itself, soliciting. To my knowledge, those providing the books did so free of charge, were not from the Heritage Foundation, did so with the intention to educate, and were not collecting money as they went. To say that they were soliciting for the Heritage Foundation strains language beyond the capacity for accurate description.

David
David
11 years ago

Justin,
The rules to which you link are not the only Float rules. The actual application, that must be completed and signed, lays out the regulations. See http://www.july4thbristolri.com/2009_ParadeFloatApplication.pdf
Specifically #8

bobc
bobc
11 years ago

David,
That “other group” if you had cared to read was “We the People”. Yes, some of them posed along with some of the tea party group for a picture. If you care to notice, there is a red ensign flag on the ship, would you accuse everyone in the photo of being British?

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

The fact that a small portion of the book (2 pages, 40%) contained a membership form that could reasonably be construed, colloquially, as a “solicitation” does not mean that the act of handing out the books was, itself, soliciting.

So a rub down with a happy ending is really just a massage because the former takes longer than the later, and the one ummm “handing out” isn’t really soliciting even if the act is solicitation. So clear to me now! I wouldn’t recommend trying that line of reasoning with the wife.

bobc
bobc
11 years ago

Russ,
You should be ashamed of that really bad anology! 🙂

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