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Dennis Godfrey
The Arizona Republic
June 16, 2002

Be careful of what you say in Glendale (AZ) :
Even a mild display of political dissent may bring the police down on you.

At the swearing-in ceremony for the mayor and council members last week, Councilman David Goulet said he wanted to make it harder to qualify initiative measures for the ballot.

Jay McKim, who was watching on the city's cable channel at home, was outraged.

A veteran of political fights for gun rights and other issues, he knew what to do.

He scrawled a message on a piece of poster board, drove to City Hall and stood with the sign at an outdoor plaza where people leaving the ceremony passed by.

"If Goulet has his way, we'll have no say," the sign read.

One passer-by threatened to hit him. A couple of older women told him what he was doing was disgraceful. A few other people smiled or winked.

Then the police arrived.

McKim captured the exchange on audio tape, which he has posted on the Internet.

"Do you have a permit to be out here?" an officer asked.

"I don't need a permit to be out here. I have First Amendment rights," McKim responded.

After some debate about whether McKim was petitioning or picketing, the officer said, "I already told you four times already. Please remove yourself unless you have a permit."

McKim left.

"In retrospect, if I had to do it over again, I would have refused to leave; told them either leave me alone or arrest me," he said.

The day after the incident, Jon Paladini, assistant city attorney, said McKim probably should have been left alone.

The city requires a permit only to identify a person in charge at a protest or demonstration, he said.

"It is not really a permit granting permission, it is a permit getting information," he said.

McKim had the right to make a statement, and requiring him to get a permit when city offices were closed would infringe on those rights, he said.

"Certainly nobody here is an enemy of the First Amendment, or the Second Amendment, either," Paladini said. The latter was a laughing reference to McKim's gun rights advocacy.

We'll talk to the police, Paladini promised.

McKim said he has lots of questions:

"What's the difference in holding a sign . . . or having lettering on my shirt?" he asked.

"Can I go in front of my house and wave this sign? Where is the dividing line?"

As for a permit, McKim said, "As far as political speech at a public political event, I don't need a stinking permit."

(Enhanced for Netscape)

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