Socialist Party Presidential Candidate - Brian Moore - Trespassing Controversy in Brattleboro, VT

by Stephen Tash

On January 6th, 2008, Democratic candidates and their campaigners encountered no problem as they campaigned in the streets of Keene and Moreland, NH. A mere 7 miles away from Moreland and 14 miles away from Keene, across the border in Brattleboro, VT, the story was not the same for Brian Moore, Socialist Party Candidate for President, and three colleagues.

Moore was soliciting signatures for a petition to put him in the primary race for the Liberty Union Party of Vermont whose primary falls on March 5th, 2008 in a strip mall parking lot on Saturday and Sunday. The largest traffic flow was through the doors of the Hannaford Supermarket and naturally Moore focused his attention at that end of the strip mall, remaining in the parking lot. On Saturday, Moore had no problems and collected over 200 of the necessary 1000 signatures he needed. However, on Sunday he had a run-in with a Hannaford manager who demanded in a hostile voice that they leave the mall parking lot as it was store property and accused Moore of trespassing. Moore and his colleagues refused to leave the premises on the basis that they had a constitutional right to participate in the democratic process in a public area, regardless of whether or not it was on private property.

Within minutes, the Brattleboro police were involved: a yet unnamed lieutenant and Sergeant Mike Gorman. The Hannaford manager used the time to pin himself with a vintage Eisenhower/Nixon button, which he apparently had on hand. The officers were forceful at first and demanded that the petitioners “leave or they would get a trespassing order, and would arrest [them] if necessary,” “under no uncertain terms,” according to Moore. The four persisted to refuse to leave and Peter Diamondstone, Socialist Party member, a leader of the Liberty Union Party, and an attorney informed the officers of their constitutional right to solicit signiatures in a public place. Once informed, Sgt Gorman consulted with the lieutenant and they called headquarters who in turn deferred to the Windham County State’s Attorney’s office run by Tracy Kelly Shriver. In his official statement, Moore mistakenly referred to the office as being run by Dan Davis, who retired on October 1st. It is uncertain where the mistake stems from at this time. While headquarters waited to hear back, Moore asked if he could continue soliciting signatures while they waited and the officers obliged.

When word came back, at the last minute, the State Attorney’s office agreed with Diamondstone that the petitioners had a constitutional right to their actions. Despite the fact that many of the people Moore spoke with came from nearby New Hampshire and could not sign the petition, he managed to collect nearly 500 signatures and leave a good impression on many more. The signatures, however, are due January 21st; I will find out how you can find and sign the petition for a post in the near future.

Moore’s response to the police was that they were “belligerent” at first, but ended up taking “the right actions” and were quite “gracious” towards him by the end of the confrontation. It is a credit to the town of Brattleboro that the officers were willing to change their tune rather than become more aggressive. As far as of yet, I have been unable to obtain a police report or find out the name of the lieutenant; I contacted the Brattleboro Police Department shortly after 5pm EST and was told to call back tomorrow when the clerks are in.

Moore considered the store manager out of place. However, he does note that he had spoken to a Republican couple and an irrate Democrat approximately two minutes prior to the manager coming out. He assumes that one of the two decided to complain to the store after expressing to him that he did not belong there, “especially not a Socialist.” The store, when contacted, deferred comment to Hannaford spokeswoman Caren Epstein. Due to the timeframe, I have not been able to hear back from Epstein, but once she has the opportunity I will relay Hannaford’s side of the story. If I were to guess at the cause of the manager’s actions, it would be that Hannaford states in its Community Service FAQ:

Our current solicitation policy gives any interested community organizations an opportunity to solicit donations through our community giving kiosk, which is positioned at the front entrance of our stores. In addition, organizations can receive bottle and can donations through our bottle redemption areas in those states where applicable. All the organization needs to do is speak to the store manager.

It is likely that the manager misunderstood this to include common property and political solicitation. His attitude in trying to wrongfully enforce this policy, however, was far from professional.

However, this story is not about improper actions by a store manager nor is it about police harrassment of third party candidates. This story is an upsetting look into how average Americans perceive the democratic process. Brian Moore noted, “How ironic that these close-by major party candidates are campaigning effortlessly, while minor party candidates face obstruction after obstruction, in many states, just to gain ballot access.” Average Americans, supporters of the two major parties, decided to take it upon themselves not to speak out against the candidacy of Brian Moore, but rather to silence him.

This reflects in ballot access laws across the United States. Texas requires 74,101 valid signatures to be placed on the ballot; North Carolina requires 69,734; Oklahoma requires 43,913 and Georgia requires 42,489. In my home state of Michigan, where 38,084 signatures are required, it is estimated that it would cost any candidate or party $50,000 in paid petitioners to get on the ballot. The system is set up in most states for only the Big Two to be able to afford to participate in the democratic process successfully.

As Americans, if we believe in the mythic ideals of democracy and liberty, we have to stop trying to silence all dissident views. Most of the people Brian Moore spoke to Sunday very well may have believed in these ideals, at least one did not. That individual, in conjunction with the apathetic, at best, stance of Hannaford Supermarkets, was able to cause great disturbance in the democratic process. Ballot access laws have shown themselves to be much more disruptive to the process; the mass media is no better with ABC denying even a dissident member of the Big Two, Dennis Kucinich, entrance to the Democratic Party Debate. If we see more of the same old that we’ve been complaining about for years in 2009, we will know who is at fault: Americans who only pretend to love democracy.

I will make further posts and ammend this post when more information becomes available.

This post was followed up on 1/19/08 here.

10 Responses to “Socialist Party Presidential Candidate - Brian Moore - Trespassing Controversy in Brattleboro, VT”

  1. Richard Winger Says:

    Texas requires 43,991 signatures for a new party. Furthermore, any independent presidential candidate is free to create a new party in Texas. Although it’s good to publicize ballot access barriers, it is not good to make them seem worse than they really are.

  2. Stephen Tash Says:

    My apologies, the source was specific to Brian Moore himself, perhaps how much is required for an independent candidate. I didn’t have time to research each state individually.

  3. Atlee Yarrow Says:

    Who saw the pictures of the police at www.socialdemocraticpartyofamerica.org with that store manager… he looked worried. Next time we should have 1,000 Socialists at the store’s front door.

  4. Kim Says:

    Constitutional right to harass patrons of a private establishment and trespass on private property!? Score one for the socialists; sounds like their lawyers are already in office.

  5. Stephen Tash Says:

    If he were actually harrassing the patrons, he would not constitutionally protected. Nowhere did it say that he followed after people who chose not to speak to him. He interacted with patrons, and there is no reason to believe he did so in an inappropriate manner. And the point is that it wasn’t trespassing. The area was open for the public at large, which is what granted him the constitutional protection to participate in the democratic process there.

  6. Stewart A. Alexander Says:

    MAPP-Alexander You Tube Interview
    The Need for Medical Marijuana

    Stewart A. Alexander
    Socialist Party USA 2008 Nominee for Vice President
    and candidate for nomination by Peace and Freedom Party

    Hello Comrades,
    Recently I posted a You Tube interview on my web-site and the response has been terrific. While running as a candidate for California Lieutenant Governor in 2006, Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project (MAPP) invited Peace and Freedom Party and the candidates from other parties, to participate in their meeting to introduce their parties and their campaigns. Near the beginning of the meeting, Lanny Swerdlow, Coordinator of MAPP, invited me to conduct the interview.

    Prior to posting the You Tube interview on my web-site, the interview had received just over 300 hits over 15 months. Now that it has been posted to my web-site, the interview has been views over 100 times within the past 2 months; now it is up to 416 and generating comments and responses from across the nation.

    To view the interview, click on the link below:

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  7. David Gaines Says:

    Kim: the courts have held time and time again that shopping centers and the like are de facto “public commons” and that owners of such places cannot interfere with people peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights by seeking signatures on ballot access petitions. Conservatives, libertarians, and others who are obsessed with property rights to the exclusion of all else (and are intolerant of socialists, besides) need to bone up on the various court decisions that have made this point rather clear.

    If this story is accurate, then this town’s police department is to be congratulated for its professionalism and its rather astonishing willingness to change its mind on the spot instead of being forced to do so months later after a lawsuit. Bravo.

  8. Stuart Daniels Says:

    My favorite is the little old lady who told Brain to F*&K off!

    Also this hero Peter Diamondstone is refered to some as a “Lawyer” Can anyone confirm his bar status as a lawyer. I believe he cannot use that title himself, please do not refer to him as so, if he is not licensed to practice law !???

  9. Stuart H . Daniels Says:

    Oh, diamonstone’s arrest at a debate in 2006 was one of the funniest political debates in the history of Vermont politics, if you are unaware of this laughingstock , look it up.

  10. Stuart H . Daniels Says:

    Oh could you post the actual # of signatures that Brian got in vermonts ballot system, I understand that he fell VERY short of the 1000 needed , Is this accurate?

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