MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Gubernatorial candidate Chris Holbrook was arrested for exercising his 1st Amendment rights while in a public park. He and some supporters were peacefully gathering signatures to achieve ballot access — a fundamental political freedom — but police insisted that he needed a permit and placed him in shackles.
Chris Holbrook, who is running for governor of Minnesota on the Libertarian Party ticket, has 2 weeks to gather 2,000 signatures in order to appear on the ballot. This is a requirement of all minor parties in state-wide races in Minnesota. Holbrook’s deadline is June 3rd.
One May 29th, with less than 5 days to go, Mr. Holbrook and some of his supporters gathered at Lake Calhoun to enjoy the scenery and to peacefully ask for people to sign their petitions. Lake Calhoun is a public park, and talking to fellow citizens is a matter of freedom of speech and assembly.
Holbrook and three volunteers were approached by a group of police officers. One Minneapolis Police Officer immediately took exception to the fact that the Libertarians were recording him as he tried to chase them away.
“You guys need to contact the park board and get a permit,” said the hot-headed officer on video. “You can’t promote, you can’t do any of that stuff without a permit.”
“We can’t stand in the park, wearing a yellow shirt, talking to people about liberty?” asked Holbrook.
“Why don’t you put your phone away,” the cop impatiently sneered. “You’re recording me, I don’t want you to do that… Either you give me your ID or you put your phone away.”
The enforcers did not back down. As Holbrook explains in the caption of his video: “At the end of this video he tells me he does not want to be videotaped so I simultaneously stop as he lurches towards me, grabs me, wrenches my wrist and the phone out of it, he takes my phone, and cuffs me without any physical resistance.”
Mr. Holbrook was painfully cuffed and placed in the back of a police car. He is seeking medical attention for injuries sustained during the arrest. Video is available here.
“There’s no free speech in public spaces?” asked one of Holbrook’s friends. “Is this a no-free-speech zone?”
Mr. Holbrook was taken away by police and charged with advertising without a license, a misdemeanor offense. Petitioning is not considered advertising and is a protected activity under Minnesota and Minneapolis ordinances, the Libertarian Party contends on its website.
“Minor parties already have such a disadvantage in Minnesota just getting on the ballot. When you have the police arresting you while you are legally gathering signatures for ballot access, that makes it almost impossible,” says Cara Schulz, LPMN Executive Board member.