Collins Arrested for Trespassing while Campaigning

Rich Collins, Democratic candidate for the 57th District House of Delegates seat, was arrested last Saturday for trespassing. Collins was campaigning in front of Whole Foods when the property manager of the shopping center asked him to leave. Collins refused, the police were called, and Collins asked to be arrested on principle, saying that the shopping center is functionally public, and he has a First Amendment right to campaign there. The police disagreed, and he was taken into custody.

The Daily Progress has an editorial on the matter, which runs down the basic story, concluding that “[h]e is raising a legitimate public issue in perhaps an unorthodox way,” but that “it probably doesn’t rank in the top 10 on the list of issues facing Virginia.”

Disclosure: I’ve been known to volunteer my time for the Collins campaign. My fiancee is the campaign manager. We’re also blood brothers in the local chapter of the Illuminati.

6 thoughts on “Collins Arrested for Trespassing while Campaigning”

  1. Well, I have to say that I’ve always been troubled by the prevailing national/legal definition of malls etc. as private property and therefore as places where freedom of speech can be curtailed. But then again I’m troubled by our national habit to “privatize” just about every damn thing available.

    I am curious, though, about whether Collins picked this particular fight b/c he thinks he has nothing to lose–I have to imagine that, on the whole, this incident is not going to catapult him to the head of this race. Some people will be charmed and/or impressed by his stand, but far more (I predict) will think “crazy red radical” or something like that. And not vote for him. So I wonder if this is kind of a noble gesture for the sake of raising an issue rather than an artful strategy for winning the election.

  2. I think it’s an interesting issue he raises, and it’s not something that’s going to sway my vote one way or the other. However, I don’t think the property manager however should be the one deciding whether or not political campaigning is allowed in the front of a business. I think that should be the decision of the individual business owner.

    Of course in the event it’s a massive corporate citizen like Walmart or similarly sized company.. well in that case.. it should be considered public property and campaigning should be allowed. Because we all know those companies really support Republicans. :D

  3. If taxes pave and maintain the parking lot and sidewalks — if the property owner doesn’t pay taxes on that portion of the land, then I can be comfortable saying “public property — campaign away!” That isn’t so.

    Businesses in places like this are overwhelmingly tenants, not owners. Letting a renter decide how to use common areas near their rental unit infringes on the rights of the guy next door.

    Why are we increasingly willing to take other people’s property for hiking trails and politicians? This bothers me a lot.

  4. Rich Collins is clearly the man. He’s got my vote (between his getting arrested and his pro-environment positions).

  5. My involvement with the campaign aside, I’ll say that this wouldn’t change my vote any one way or the other. That said, I’m surprised at the number of people who really dig this. (They may have already liked Rich anyhow. I’m not sure.)

    People like a guy who stands up for himself.

  6. I think this situation may be helpful to raise awareness about the erosion of public space in America. An excellent slate article addresses some of the issues at “lifestyle malls” which mimic the appearance of downtown city blocks, but lack the elements of a public space — namely free speech.

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