Last May, someone was cited by Kirkland police officers for “Public Disturbance” while attending a home demo in the neighborhood of Chris Toher, a Skanska Executive Vice President:
On this particular evening, the cops came immediately. I went to go talk to the police and what followed was a conversation unlike any I’d had previously with police. The officer wouldn’t tell me what was or wasn’t allowed, he simply told me that we were violating the noise ordinance. I asked to see the noise ordinance; he didn’t have it. He wouldn’t tell me how we could comply with the noise ordinance, so I asked if we would be in compliance if we were quieter. Again he refused to help me figure out how to comply. Frustrated, I returned to the other activists to relay the conversation. We continued the demo for about ten more minutes, and then wrapped up the demo. Since another police officer had arrived during this time, I decided to stop and ask him if he could tell me what was and what was not allowed. That police officer decided to arrest me. He gave me a citation for Public Disturbance - noises. This is a criminal offense. Even though I was pretty much the quietest person at the demo, I got the citation because I had dared to ask questions. But I won’t be intimidated. I won’t stop protesting, I won’t stop lending my voice to speak out for animals, and I won’t let this incident make me afraid to be an activist.
At trial, she was found guilty of Disorderly Conduct…but the judge at her subsequent sentencing hearing felt differently than the prior judge, prosecutor on the case, and the police officers—this judge actually looked at what had happened. The sentencing judge said that he was troubled to add his name to such a judgment and sentence, and he was disturbed by the First Amendment implications of the conviction.
Toher and the Kirkland police have been fans of attempting to use the legal system to shut down protests in his neighborhood. The police recommended that Toher get a restraining order against an activist, but that didn’t stop the protests. And now the police made a ridiculous arrest, clearly to send a message to try to scare people out of protesting. But their attempts at chilling political protest have once again failed. Protests have continued, the person who was arrested remains undeterred, and the sentencing judge gave a reminder that Skanska walks on thin ice when it tries to chill constitutionally-protected speech.