1st Amendment not OK in OK

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Oklahoma Three, libertarian activists Paul Jacob, Susan Johnson, and Rick Carpenter were indicted with “conspiracy to defraud the state”, shackled and placed in leg irons, frog marched in front of the media to the courtroom, and face ten years or more in prison for petitioning the voters of OK to put a Taxpayer Bill of Rights initiative (called TABOR) on the ballot. OK has a residency requirement for petition circulators. The TABOR petition circulators faced considerable harassment and intimidation while trying to get the TABOR initiative onto the ballot.

As this campaign unfolded, it met with ferocious opposition. Tactics included hiring “blockers” at $100 a day who admitted going into stores and lying to managers that a petitioner had cursed them out or treated them rudely and urging the manager to throw them out. As someone would talk to the petitioner, these folks would come around and begin yelling and be abusive. People trying to get groceries are doing petitioners a favor to stop as it is; they don’t want to be involved in a street fight.

reason: Is this common when interests are opposed to the content of a petition drive?

Jacob: The ferocity by which the powers that be opposed this drive is something I’ve never seen before. I saw a lot of harassment during my years working on term limits initiatives, but when it came to TABOR it increased tenfold and the worst case was Oklahoma. Something ran in the paper that mentioned petitioners were going to post offices, and the next day every petitioner at a post office was told to leave by police. (Reason)

TABOR had to import petitioners from other states. They followed state advice and obtained legal guidance and thought they were following the rules for how to do this legally. And now they are being indicted for petitioning the government for redress of grievances, namely the grievance that the OK state government is spending taxpayer money like Jack Murtha and Ted Stevens on a week-long drunken bender.

The persecution of the TABOR petitioners is bipartisan, proving that in some circumstances both parties work together.

The challenge [to the TABOR signatures] included public employee unions, teachers unions, the AFL/CIO, and also a number of the most wealthy Republican donors in the state, folks with energy companies and banks. This indictment was something Drew Edmondson is winning an awful lot of brownie points for with movers and shakers in Oklahoma. (Reason)

For more information on this outrageous prosecution see the Sam Adams Alliance (presumably named in honor of the firebrand politician and not the brewer).

Trackposted to Outside the Beltway, Is It Just Me?, , Allie Is Wired, A Blog For All, The Populist, Walls of the City, Big Dog’s Weblog, Adeline and Hazel, Right Voices, and Stageleft, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

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