Tuesday, July 24, 2007

U.S. Government Subverts 1st Amendment for Major League Baseball: Nationals Ballpark Stadium

I am not the only person who believes that they were criminally targeted by the government for prominently writing against Washington, D.C.'s National Ballpark:
Distributed by the DC Statehood Green Party
http://www.dcstateh oodgreen. org


For Immediate Release: June 5, 2007

Debby Hanrahan, (202) 462-2054
Jim Klimaski, Klimaski & Associates PC, (202) 296-5600

Long-time D.C. Statehood Green Party activist Debby Hanrahan has won a settlement in her First Amendment-false arrest lawsuit against Amtrak (The
National Railroad Passenger Corp.) and has directed that almost all of the settlement proceeds other than lawyers’ fees and her expenses go to two local civil liberties organizations. The two organizations will receive a total of $35,000.

Hanrahan, 68, a leading participant in the No DC Taxes for Baseball coalition which opposed public financing of a new baseball stadium, was arrested without any
warning by Amtrak police in the Grand Concourse in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station on November 22, 2004 during a public rally promoting the naming of the
Washington Nationals baseball team. For quietly holding a poster opposing public financing, she was charged with unlawful entry and jailed for 28 hours
before her release on her own recognizance after a court appearance.

Hanrahan said that a portion of the settlement will go for fees incurred by the law firm of veteran civil liberties attorney James Klimaski. Klimaski’s firm
took the case on a pro bono basis and spent hundreds of hours in legal work before Klimaski negotiated the settlement with Amtrak earlier this month. The suit
was filed in 2005 in D.C. Superior Court, after Hanrahan’s criminal attorney, Paul J. Riley, successfully got the criminal charge dropped in January 2005.

After lawyers’ fees, Hanrahan received $45,000. To help other persons falsely arrested in free speech and other civil liberties cases, Hanrahan has directed
that $25,000 of this go to the D.C. Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and $10,000 to the Center on Conscience and War’s MCN Legal Fund, an organization
that assists military conscientious objectors. The remaining $10,000 of the settlement will primarily cover expenses incurred by Hanrahan in her criminal
case, as well as deposition and expert witness costs in the civil case.

Hanrahan said that it was her intention from before she filed this suit to contribute proceeds other than attorneys’ fees and criminal and civil case expenses to progressive legal organizations.

“First, I wanted to show Amtrak through this suit that the First Amendment applies at public meetings held on its publicly-owned [U.S. Department of Transportation] space,” said Hanrahan. “Secondly, I wanted a settlement or verdict large enough to make meaningful allocations to organizations that stand up for people whose rights to freedom of speech, assembly and conscience have been violated.”

The offending poster Hanrahan held called attention in cartoon form to the spiraling cost of the stadium, then at $614 million (and now at least $100 million higher). The poster showed a beaming, top-hatted, cigar-chomping, “fat-cat” team owner with then-Mayor Anthony Williams exulting over the expensive new stadium amid crumbling public schools and libraries and a shut-down D.C. General Hospital.

The charge against Hanrahan was dismissed seven weeks and two court appearances after her arrest. In subsequent proceedings to expunge Hanrahan’s arrest
record, the U.S. Attorney’s office acknowledged in a written filing “that this court would find, by clear and convincing evidence that [Hanrahan] did not commit
the offense for which she had been charged.” As NBC4 reporter Tom Sherwood wrote on the NBC4 web site and in The Current newspapers at the time of her arrest: Hanrahan “held aloft a sign criticizing the baseball deal, but was not disruptive.”

“I hope this case and settlement send yet anot her reminder to police and public officials that they cannot infringe on individuals’ free speech rights because they don’t like the message,” Hanrahan said. “I was attending a public rally in about as public a place as you can imagine, to which members of the public were invited through radio and newspaper announcements, and which featured on the stage Mayor Williams and several members of the D.C. Council and Sports and Entertainment Commission. My ‘crime’ was being out of sync with the message of the rally, and for that I was given no warning and was grabbed in a painful shoulder hold by an Amtrak policeman, pulled out of the rally, arrested, charged with trespassing, incarcerated for 28 hours, and required to give a urine sample in the presence of both male and female court and U.S. Marshal personnel. And I had my free speech rights substantially chilled as I faced this criminal charge during a key time period in the baseball stadium financing fight with a big mid-December [2004] Council vote scheduled.”

Hanrahan praised the work of Klimaski and his associates in the civil case and of Riley in the criminal case. She said Klimaski, despite having a small firm without the deep pockets of major D.C. law firms, “nevertheless took a big financial risk in taking my case because he recognized that my arrest was an outrageous violation of my civil liberties, and that Amtrak had to be shown that there are consequences for arbitrarily arresting nonviolent protesters at public meetings held on public property.”
This case confirms that the government has used law enforcement criminally against those who prominently protest the dirty planning to cram a baseball stadium deal along the east side of Washington, D.C.'s South Capitol Street, blocking the U.S. National Capital Planning Commission's plans for a South Capitol - Frederick Douglass Mall.

2006 version with condos above underground parking

2007 version with above ground parking garages

Illustrations from: http://www.jdland.com/dc/stadium.cfm

Welcome to the state of affairs of planning for the Capital City of the United States of America!

League of Fans (Ralph Nader)

No comments: