Saturday, May 13, 2006

Eugene Cheney Heckler Goes Free!

There were probably some Thank God Almightys at the Patterson household this week, as matriarch Perry Saunders Patterson had criminal trespass charges dropped for contradickting Dick Cheney in front of Eugene's airport:
The move brings to a close the case against Perry Saunders Patterson, 56, who was arrested Sept. 17, 2004, at the Eugene Airport, after she refused to leave the area outside a hangar leased to Monaco Coach Corp. by the city.

Patterson had been ejected from the hangar after she shouted "no, no, no," when Cheney said President Bush and the war in Iraq had made the world a safer place.[emph mine]

A municipal court judge dismissed the charges last September, ruling that Monaco Coach did not have the authority to order Patterson off the publicly owned land adjacent to the leased land.

Former City Prosecutor Mark Haight appealed the ruling to Lane County Circuit Court, arguing in court papers that the focus should be on the First Amendment rights of the sponsors and organizers of the event.

"The arrest of Ms. Patterson was constitutional and lawful because the people who brought the vice president to Eugene had the autonomy to choose the content of their own message," Haight wrote.
Obviously something happened to make the City change their tune, and indeed two things precipitated the dropped charges--one of which was a 9th Circuit case decided in Portland that affirmed religious gadfly Ed Gathright's right to shame people and embarrass himself at things like Cinco de Mayo. If it's OK to tell ordinary people they're seeking hell, by logic it's probably OK to tell an important person to go there.

But the 2nd reason is more interesting: the City found out that the arrest was not made by Secret Service or City police, but by "private (security) or some group that travels with the vice president." Sounds suspiciously like the "GOP operatives" who tossed people in Denver on even more specious grounds. Is a political secret police really something we want to endorse?

"No, no no."