When we think of civil protest, we think of people marching to end discrimination in housing, education and anywhere else that segregation was still practiced in our nation.
Or we think of those who protested the Viet Nam war, or those who marched to give women the vote, and to right other wrongs.
It's perfectly legal to protest, to state your opinions down at the Town Square. The other day, there was a man in front of our local post office passing out leaflets urging people to impeach the president, and although I wasn't about to take the time to find out his reasons, I'd never quibble over his right to speak his mind. That is what this country is all about.
There's a difference, though, between civil protest and stealing the property of others. Case in point is a legal action proceeding through the courts in Anne Arundel County. A couple of years ago we talked about this fellow down there, one David S. Corrigan. Corrigan is against gambling, which is his right. But Maryland took it to the voters in 2010, whether or not to expand gambling in the state to include casino-style slot machines and "table games" (not talking about Clue or Monopoly here!) During the election campaign, Corrigan was driving around the county, removing pro-gambling campaign signs. Why, when he was caught by the police, he had 70 signs in his pickup, and let's just say the chances are, that wasn't his first time out there harvesting signs.
I'd bet you on that, but it would upset Corrigan too much. He copped out to taking "100 or so" signs.
His attorney, a man who went to law school in order to become involved with this inane behavior, is Ronald H. Jarashow. Jarashow said, in court, "This is a case about civil protest. This is a case about someone having strong beliefs and acting on them."
The mouthpiece also said that Corrigan volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and feels that a lot of the people he seeks to help through that agency are harmed by gambling. And he thought that the signs he was ripping off were on public property.
I did not attend law school, although I avidly watched "Perry Mason" and "L.A. Law." Raymond Burr would want Jarashow to know that just because something is on public property, that doesn't mean it's up for grabs. To prove the point, try sauntering down to your local police precinct and driving off in one of their patrol cars.
And Vinny Gambini, from "My Cousin Vinny," taught us that acting on your beliefs might not always be legal. For instance, I believe that right now, the proprietors of Crabby's Crab House owe me a dozen XXL males and a case of National Boh, but I might have trouble walking out of there without paying for them.
I checked with the ACLU website, because who knows what crazy laws might have been passed, but they still say that the First Amendment protects many forms of expression, including the right to free speech, participating in demonstrations like protests and marches, leafleting, chanting, drumming and dancing. It also protects "symbolic speech," e.g., wearing T-shirts with messages, carrying signs, sculptures or puppets, etc. But they add that Violence or criminal activity does not become constitutional simply because you do it while expressing a political message.
The people who ran the pro-gambling campaign are suing Corrigan for damages. Where he got the idea that he can steal other people's property just because he doesn't like the message printed on it will probably not come up in the trial.
But I wish it would!