Bob Newland, Libertarian candidate for governor of South Dakota, wrote this letter to the editor in Summer 1997. It speaks for itself...
I came to the South Dakota State Fair to campaign for the office of South Dakota Governor. Campaigning includes passing out literature about my position on issues.
I spent several hours Friday doing just that. Friday night I was enjoying a beer near several law enforcement officers from various towns in South Dakota--rent-a-cops. I handed my flyer to one, who read it and recommended that his companions get a copy. Soon, it was plain that some of them took offense at my excoriation of several South Dakota laws and the politicians who support them.
As I walked away from the beer garden, a golf cart full of cops drove up. One officer told me that there was a law against passing out literature at the Fair. I went to the Administration ofice and, sure enough, got a copy of South Dakota State Fair Regulation 12:02:03:01, which reads: "The unrestricted distribution of advertising material or matter of any kind, nature, or description is prohibited. Exhibitors may advertise at, and distribute from, their places of exhibit only."
Given that the Fair takes place on public thoroughfares and is partially publicly-funded, such a rule violates the First Amendment. I made arrangements to be arrested at noon on Saturday in front of some members of the Press.
Visiting the Fair Security Office at 11:30 Saturday, I asked about the rule, then said I intended to violate it. "We can't let you," they said. "Will you arrest a violator?" I asked. "Yes." I then told them I was going to do so at noon and I told them where. They said they'd be there.
They didn't show up. I went back to the Security Office at 12:15, where I was told they didn't have the authority to arrest me. They also said, "All you want is publicity, and we're not gonna give it to you."
For several hours thereafter, I flagrantly violated a written State Fair Regulation with knowledge of Fair Staff and Fair Security. No one bothered me. Naturally I wonder, "Is it now okay to violate laws when all you want is publicity?"
© Bob Newland 1997.
Permission to reprint freely granted, provided the article is reprinted in full and that any reprint is accompanied by this copyright statement.
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