We’ve quite a crazy few days with regards to the protests at the Wrangler plant in Seminole.

Here’s the full story (first published on OKIMC at: http://www.okimc.org/newswire/display/1029/index.php)

This last week has been rather eventful with regards to the Wrangler protests in Seminole, OK.

Here is the latest news:

(First though I gotta give some background on what has happened to this point)…

On Friday, August 1, 2003 – Rachel Jackson did a one person protest in front of the Wrangler plant in Seminole, OK. She was joined by one local resident. (full story can be read here: http://www.okimc.org/feature/display/814/index.php) They just stood in front of the Wrangler distribution center on Wrangler Blvd (HW 9) in Seminole (on the right-of-way) holding a sign in support of the workers and in opposition to the plant closing.

During that protest a manager from the plant came out and said they did not allow people to protest in front of the plant and said that she was on their property. So, she moved to the median.

The next week Rachel was back (along with myself) protesting on the median. An officer from the Seminole PD pulled up to our protest site and said that we could not protest on the median because of the traffic but that it would be ok if we were on the right of way since it was public property. We told him what Wrangler said, but he told us that the r-o-w was city property and that we were ok. We also asked him if we needed a permit to be there and he said no.

Shortly after this the same Wrangler manager came out to talk to us again. We told him that we intended to stay unless the police told us to move, and we encouraged him to call the Seminole PD and talk to Srgt. Mackey.

They walked back to the plant and then about 20 minutes later we saw the same officer drive back to the plant and go inside. He was inside for about 20-30 minutes and then drove out. On the way out of the plant we stopped him and asked him if everything was ok. He said Wrangler didn’t like us being there but we were in our rights to be there. We then asked him “so you’re saying we won’t get arrested for being here” and he smiled and said no.

So for the next few weeks (each Friday from Aug. 15- Sep. 12th, with one week skipped because of the weather) we continued our weekly protests with no problems. Community response has been overwhelmingly positive and the local newspaper has ran pictures of our protests (along with another independent protest that was run by the I.B.E.W. starting this week). Most of the time it was just Rachel and I participating (one week we did have two friends from the Muskogee area join us which was fun), but lots of local folks dropped by to say howdy… a few even brought us cold drinks!

So since things were going well we decided to run an ad in the Seminole daily newspaper inviting the community to join us at the protest on Fridays from 2:30-4:30 pm. We had a friend who donated the money for the ad so we spent $175 for a quarter-page ad telling folks about this week’s protest and telling them that we would be out there every week until the plant closes.

So… the ad ran in Wednesday’s paper.

Finally we get to Friday, September 19, 2003. We showed up at the regular protest site (on the right of way, about 1 foot in the grass off of the paved shoulder on HW 9/Wrangler Blvd) but unfortunately it was just Rachel and I. But, we proceeded anyway, just holding our signs and waving at passing motorists. We started the protest at 2:30.

Then at about 3:30 p.m. an officer of the Seminole PD (a younger guy, unfortunately did not get his name… a different officer than the one we interacted with earlier) told us that we would have to leave because the police chief and looked up and found out that we were in violation of their ordinance requiring a protest permit. We told him we were told by a different officer that we didn’t need one and besides we have the right to be there under the Federal Constitution. He said “is this worth gettting arrested over?” and then I think Rachel said (if I remember right) “yeah, we’re talking about our freedom here.” Then one of us asked if we would really get arrested and he said he wasn’t sure if it was an arrestable or citable offense.

I then said I’m going to call some reporters and would like to call the police chief too. He said that’s fine call him. Unfortunately my cell phone was out of range there, so we left and after trying to figure out what to do next drove the police station to ask for a permit (we assumed this would be a rubber stamp procedure and we could get back out there). They told us no, go to city hall and speak to Community Services, so we went over there. The normal person who handled such requests wasn’t there and we were told that she wouldn’t be back until Monday. I told the receptionist that was not
acceptable that we have a right to be there and we want a permit. She then called her supervisor in who told us that we would have to talk to the Community Services director and he would fix us up.

When the director arrived, he attempted to check into the proper procedure for the permit application and while we also looked at the specific provisions of the municipal code in question:

From: http://www.seminoleproducer.com/seminole%20charter.htm

    CHAPTER 9

    PARADES AND PUBLIC MEETINGS

    Section 9-901 Definitions.

    Section 9-902 Permit required.

    Section 9-903 Permit board; composition.

    Section 9-904 Unlawful acts.

    Section 9-905 Violation; penalty.

    SECTION 9-901 DEFINITIONS.

    For the purpose of this chapter:

    1. “Public” means the community at large;

    2. “Public address system” means any loud speaker mounted outside a vehicle
    cab for the purpose of amplifying music or voice transmissions. City
    emergency vehicles and city repair/service vehicles are exempt;

    3. “Public meeting” means a meeting or gathering open to the public for
    general discussion; and

    4. “Religious meeting” means a meeting or gathering of the public for
    discussion of religion or religious matters. (Ord. No. 754,12/8/87)

    SECTION 9-902 PERMIT REQUIRED.

    A. Any person desiring to have or conduct a parade or hold a lawful,
    peaceable, public or religious meeting or use a public address system upon
    any of the streets, alleys, parks or outdoor public places within the city,
    shall make application for permit in the community services office of the
    city, in writing, giving the time, date or dates that the parade or meeting
    will be held, and the names of the persons or organizations who will hold or
    conduct the same. Upon the application the city permit board may grant a
    permit, revocable at any time, for such persons or organizations to hold a
    meeting at such time and place, and in such manner upon the public
    thoroughfares in the city as the permit board shall determine will not
    interfere with the general traffic or the convenience of the public in the
    use of the streets, alleys, parks or public places and will not endanger the
    health and safety of the community or participants of the parade or meeting.

    B. Parade permits must be obtained two (2) weeks prior to the date of the
    parade or meeting.

    C. Fee for one parade shall be Twenty Dollars ($20.00) payable at the
    community services office when permit is obtained.

    D. Fees will be waived for traditional city parades and the city permit board
    may waive other parade fees, if they determine that the parade is for the
    betterment of the public or for a recognized civic organization. (Prior Code,
    Sec. 12.2.010; Ord. No. 754, 12/8/87)

    SECTION 9-903 PERMIT BOARD; COMPOSITION.

    The city permit board shall be composed of the mayor, the chief of police,
    the city manager, the fire chief and the community services director, which
    board shall pass upon all such permit applications and in the discretion of
    the majority of the board may grant or deny any/all applications made. The
    board may require modifications, regulations, equipment or any other
    requirements deemed necessary for the safety and good health of the community
    and participants. (Prior Code, Sec. 12.12.020; Ord. No. 754, 12/8/87)

    SECTION 9-904 UNLAWFUL ACTS.

    A. It is unlawful for any person to hold or assist in holding any parade or
    meeting or use any public address system without first obtaining such permit
    for the time and place where the parade or meeting shall be held.

    B. It is unlawful and an offense to disturb or disquiet any such parade or
    meeting or make any loud or unusual noise, or by rude conduct annoy the
    speaker or other persons gathered at the meeting or in the parade.

    C. It is unlawful to distribute souvenirs, candy, gum or other objects by
    throwing, tossing or other distributions from a vehicle. (Prior Code, Sec.
    12.12.030; Ord. No. 754,12/8/87)

    SECTION 9-905 VIOLATION; PENALTY.

    Any person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter is guilty of a
    misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished as provided in
    Section 1-108 of this code. (Ord. No. 754,12/8/87)

Also the text of 1-108 referenced above is:

    SECTION 1-108 GENERAL PENALTY.

    A. Except as otherwise provided by state law, whenever in this code or in any
    ordinance of the city an act is prohibited or is made or declared to be
    unlawful or an offense or a misdemeanor, or whenever in the code or ordinance
    the doing of any act is required or the failure to do any act is declared to
    be unlawful, where no specific penalty is provided therefor, the violation of
    any provision of this code or of any ordinance, upon conviction, shall be
    punished by a fine of not exceeding One Hundred Dollars ($100.00). Each day
    or any portion of a day during which any violation of this code or of any
    ordinance shall continue shall constitute a separate offense.

    B. Any person who shall aid, abet or assist in the violation of any provision
    of this code or any other ordinance shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor
    and upon conviction shall be punished as provided in this section. (Prior
    Code, Sec. 1.08.010)

    State Law Reference: Maximum fines chargeable by courts not of record,
    $200.00, 11 0.5. Section 14-111; Fines over $100.00 are to be by jury trial,
    II OS. Section 27-119.

    SECTION 1-109 SECOND AND SUBSEQUENT OFFENSES.

    Every person who is convicted of any offense punishable as provided in
    Section 1-108 of this code and who commits the same offense a second time and
    is subsequently convicted of the second offense, the punishment for the
    second or subsequent offense shall be a fine of not more than Two Hundred
    Dollars ($200.00) or not more than thirty (30) days’ imprisonment, or by both
    such fine and imprisonment. (Ord. No.666, 8/11/81; Ord. No. 718, 6/11/85)

    SECTION 1-110 FINES RECOVERABLE BY CIVIL ACTION.

    All fines shall be recoverable by civil action before any court of competent
    jurisdiction in addition to any other method provided by law.

Finally the director finds a book of past permit applications and he tells us that all we will need to do is to submit a letter to the permit board requesting a permit. I told him I have no objection submitting an application but do object to the $20 permit fee PER EVENT.

We talk some more and he tells us that if we submit this application by Monday morning, that he would post the 48 hour (open meeting requirement) permit board notice, and then have this meeting on Wednesday so we would have an answer by Friday.

Over the weekend we drafted our permit application letter which was submitted on Monday, September 24, 2003:

    September 22, 2003

    Dear Members of the Permit Board,

    This letter is to request a permit to hold a weekly protest on the public right-of-way on State Highway 9 in front of the Wrangler Distribution Center. We plan to hold these protests from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m., every Friday until the plant closing at the end of November. Although the public has been invited, we estimate the attendance to be no more than 25 people. As we have been holding these protests for 7 weeks (and we were told by a Sergeant of the Police Department we did not need a permit), the highest attendance has been 4 people.

    We also request a waiver of the $20 permit fee pursuant Seminole Municipal Code 9-902 and the US Supreme Court case of Forsyth County, GA, v. Nationalist Movement (112 S. Ct. 2395), which provides that even nominal permit fees are unconstitutional if there are no explicit objective content-neutral factors for determining if a fee will be charged or not.

    Our intention in holding these protests is to simply show and rally support for the area workers who will struggle due to the Wrangler closing. We want the workers to know the community is thinking about them and sees the enormous unfairness of their situation.

    Thank you for your attention.

So today we had our hearing before the Seminole Permit Board. Rachel and I were both in attendance and we are pleased to report that our permit was apporved and the permit fees were waived.

So… the protests will continue! Please join us on this coming Friday (and every Friday between now and the plant closing in November) from 2:30-4:30 p.m. on the highway right of way of the Wrangler Distribution Center (1400 W. Wrangler Blvd, Seminole, OK).