First Amendment Rights Thwarted in Mound
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In Minnesota, it is necessary to petition eligible voters in order to place an independent or third party candidate’s name, not with a major party, on the ballot. For the past 12 years, Danene Provencher have been actively petitioning every election cycle, mostly in her hometown, Mound, to allow the third party candidate of her choice to participate in our democracy. This year she is working toward collecting the 2,000 signatures required by the Minnesota Nominating Petition for Presidential Electors (M.S. 204B.07, Subd. 2.) to put Presidential Candidate Rocky Anderson on our November ballot.
Dannenne has petitioned numerous times in Mound and have always stayed within the legal bounds of signature collecting when she has been on public property. She studied the information provided by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office and is well aware of her First Amendment rights to free speech, peaceably assemble and petition citizens of the United States.
On Saturday, July 21st, during the Spirit of the Lakes Festival, Danene Provenncher went with another volunteer to the newly named Surfside Park on Cooks Bay to gather signatures. They were quite stunned when a festival volunteer began scolding them, telling her that they were not allowed to collect signatures. She has not only collected signatures in this park numerous times but had also campaigned there as a candidate twice over the past decade. Danene tried to explain her rights to the festival volunteer but instead of listening to me she quickly told a nearby police officer to kick me out of the park. Again she tried to explain to the police officer (Officer #1 is the only identification he would provide) that this action violated her legal rights. He started screaming at Danene in an attempt to get her to leave. He then went to grab Danene’s arm to physically pull her. She asked him to please not touch her and to tell her what city ordinance, law or rule she was breaking to warrant such extreme harassment.
In an attempt to get more clarity as to why this provocation had taken place, Danene went to speak with Kandis M. Hanson, the Mound City Manager. Explaining the situation and she stated that while there was nothing illegal about what Danenne was doing she was not comfortable with her actions. In a second conversation, she said the festival was a celebration and they therefore could not allow this type of political behavior in the public park. Danene tried to relate to her that she was also celebrating by participating in her democracy and found her position to be unconvincing given the volume of candidates and political parties in the parade earlier in the day as well as the great number of candidates who came to the park after the parade.
Danene then spoke with John Beise, former Mound City Councilman, and who is presently serving on the Board of Directors for the Spirit of the Lakes Festival. He repeated that the board had decided they would not allow petitioning within the public park during the festival. He could not, however, offer any verification of written guidelines or rules for citizens to reference. Danene asked him if their verbal rule superseded my U.S. Constitutional rights of free speech, peaceably assembling, and practicing democracy by petitioning per the Minnesota state statutes. He agreed that their decision probably did not supersede her rights but that the festival board would stand firm backing their new rules.
Danene complied with their request and their new rules but is befuddled and perplexed by the way she was treated in her own hometown. Danene did not break any rules, ordinances or laws. She was merely practicing democracy on public property. Also, none of the visitors in the park or petition signers gave any indication that her petitioning efforts were a problem or led to any discomfort.
Later while petitioning on the edge of the sidewalk, Danene was again reprimanded by a police officer driving a golf cart on the sidewalk. He told me her was blocking the flow of foot traffic. Danene pointed out to him that he was taking up much more space with his golf cart on the sidewalk, resulting in an impediment to the foot traffic, than she was standing there as an individual petitioner.
Citizens of Mound, we implore you to protect and stand up for your rights or they may be taken away regardless of what is stated in our U.S. Constitution or in the Minnesota Secretary of State guidelines. Restrictive and discriminatory ballot access rules can have a huge impact on the civil rights of candidates, volunteers, and voters. As a third party advocate, I say “more voices, more choices.” Allow voters to sign petitions to put multiple candidates on their ballot. This broadens the debate and dialogue until November and is healthy for democracy. We hope the Mound Police, the Mound City Staff, and the Board of Directors of the Spirit of the Lakes Festival will realize that their decision-making has been misguided and call on them to stop harassing me and others who will be collecting signatures through the election filing period which ends on August 21st.
Until I am provided with the Spirit of the Lakes Festival Board meeting minutes, documenting their decision to disallow signature gathering and until I am informed as to why the public was not informed about this new, specific Mound City ordinance or law, I will continue to practice my rights as a petitioner. Officers of the Law, please study your ordinances and laws and be able to discuss them coherently with citizens because it is shameful and anti-democratic if you are enforcing bogus rules that negate our civil rights.
Volunteer petitioner for the Rocky Anderson for President campaign – Justice Party