I'm pretty clear on the "free speech" part of the US Constitution. I'm also cognizant of the no trespassing laws. But it would seem that "free speech" would trump "no trespassing" in public areas. But hey, I'm not a lawyer. Still, if I were an elected official, I'd look for ways to avoid arresting my constituents.
A couple months ago, we reported on Max Baucus' May town halls on health care. They were ugly, and ignored what constituents had to say. Turns out Max had practice:
On May 5, eight health-care advocates, including myself and two other physicians, stood up to Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and the Senate Finance Committee during a “public roundtable discussion” with a simple question:
Will you allow an advocate for a single-payer national health plan to have a seat at the table?
The answer was a loud, “Get more police!” And we were arrested and hauled off to jail.
The fact that a national health insurance program is supported by the majority of the public, doctors and nurses apparently means nothing to Senator Baucus.
He's not the only anti-health-reform Democratic Senator involved in arresting people.
Last Thursday, seven people were arrested at Dianne Feinstein's office in Los Angeles for refusing to leave until she spoke to them about health care. Now, they did take over a conference room, and were offered a different meeting date. But you never know if the Senator would really show. Call me crazy, but if I were the Senator, I would have phoned in to the conference room, and spoken to the constituents for a few minutes, explained that I wasn't IN LA that day, and set up another meeting. That likely would have defused the situation.
Whether Dianne runs for Governor or for another term as Senator, I'm betting that people she had arrested are votes lost.
As a lifelong Democrat, it breaks my heart that elected Democrats would have people arrested for something in the Party Platform. That they would rather have people arrested than to just listen to an option that is still legitimately on the table.
The larger, more serious question is about civil disobedience to the end of true health reform. Would you go to jail for it? When I was packing my waist pack for yesterday's Town Hall, having promised to follow the non-engagement policy, I still didn't know how things would turn out. So I made sure to pack a high-limit credit card in case I needed bail money. I wasn't looking to get arrested: and in fact no one was. There weren't even Philly cops around, only the Park Police who are always there. Still, I was willing. I've never been arrested, and have no desire - but this is an issue that would be worth it.