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Libertarian Crusader Diaryimage0037

1996 Campaign Era

 Published by Gary L. Fincher

 Volume I, Edition II – May 16, 1995

Ocean City, Maryland

 

 

 

Boardwalk at Ocean City, Maryland

Boardwalk at Ocean City, Maryland

  

 

Maryland Drive Over

 

Finally, after six weeks and countless buffet lunches, the Maryland petition drive is, mercifully, over. The final 100 signatures of the drive will be picked up by Kay and me within the next day and will be hand—delivered to Washington, D.C., where David Morris has been coordinating the Maryland drive.

 

Kay and I have been having difficulties of various kinds.  Maryland seems to be a tough state in which to petition, in the sense that there are a lot of “upper-class” people comfortable with the status quo. For some reason, staunch Democrats and Republicans are not very inclined to sign a   petition to let other candidates take part in the electoral process. Arrogance among the privileged electorate is alive and well and rampant in Maryland.

 

Not only that, but the merchant community appears to have little patience and tolerance for petitioning. Retail managers seem to treat individuals gathering signatures the same way one might treat a vandal who just spray-painted their garage. “You can’t be doing that around here”, we are

emphatically told time and time over, somehow attempting to impart the idea that collecting signatures on a piece of paper on a clipboard is dangerous and explosive and might erupt into armed resistance any moment. I personally can’t comprehend the strong apprehension about our activity.

 

Needless to say, Frederick, where we had been working for several weeks, was not petitioner-friendly, especially within the retail community. We were able to work the post office on “tax day”, April 17, with moderate success, in the face of a postal supervisor who was privy to the fact that legal precedent had established that we had a right to do our thing in front of the building.

 

Gaithersburg, too, which is in Montgomery County (Washington, D.C. suburbs), was a somewhat hostile location, but we nevertheless tried to pull some signatures out of there. Facing the imminent exhaustion of the last signatures authorized to be collected for the drive, Kay and I were sent to work Maryland’s Eastern Shore. On May 11, after Kay and I did our turn-in inside the Beltway, we drove toward the Eastern Shore.

 

It was a mini-travel day for us, as Salisbury, where David asked us to go, was almost a 3-hour drive from Washington.  At Annapolis, we crossed the big Bay Bridge that spanned the Chesapeake Bay, where we stopped just on the other side to sample some of Maryland’s famous crab cakes. Then, we rolled through the lush farmlands of the Eastern Shore, across part of Delaware and finally hitting the coast at Ocean City. It was upon arrival at the seaside resort town of Ocean City where we decided spontaneously to look for accommodations here rather than go to Salisbury, just 30 miles to the west.

Kay collects signatures outside Giant Food store in Salisbury, Md

Kay collects signatures outside Giant Food store in Salisbury, Md

 

 

As it turned out, we picked up a few signatures in Salisbury, in front of a Giant Food Store, where the manager gave us mild hassles but did not evict us. We did a few signatures in Ocean City, on the boardwalk (see story below), and at a couple of stores. The remainder of the Maryland signatures needed, 83 at press time, are yet to be collected but can be reeled in in less than a couple of hours on our way to our final turn-in back in Washington, D.C. After that, this team (Gary and Kay Fincher) is on to Arizona for bigger and better (we hope) things.

 

Turning in signatures in Washington, DC (David Morris, left; Gary, right)

Turning in signatures in Washington, DC (David Morris, left; Gary, right)

 

 

Ocean City Difficulties

 

The Maryland drive was not without its controversy and excitement, however. A politically volatile situation erupted on Saturday (May 13) as Kay and I were engaged in our day’s petitioning task.

 

When we came into Ocean City, we immediately noticed from the newspapers that the town was embroiled in a major controversy. Ocean City, which has a long boardwalk stretching from 41st Street to a pier on the inlet, has just been hit by a draconian measure from their town council – a brand-new “emergency” ordinance, ostensibly banning “soliciting, peddling, distributing, performing, etc.” on the public boardwalk. The Maryland chapter of the ACLU has promptly taken the measure to court, citing its blatant unconstitutionality. Kay and I discussed the issue, but felt satisfied that there was no way this could ever be construed by anybody to include “petitioning”.

 

WRRRRONG!

 

We went to the boardwalk on Saturday just as they were preparing for the parade to kick off the White Marlin Festival and began to collect signatures. The response was really good and lots of people were signing the petition. Moreover, the people were mostly just sitting around (a captive market) and actually seemed happy just to have something to do. But, as fate would have it, our peaceful and orderly petitioning didn’t escape the surveillance of the local police force; and, true to their troublemaker nature, they accosted me and informed me that I was doing “illegal activity” (ironic since we actually were required by law to circulate the petition). Obviously, this type of encroachment was met by stiff defiance from me, and a heated exchange ensued. Of course, the bullies, unprepared to counter a cogent, reasoned and tenable defense, always respond by saying that they can “win” by arresting their victim and hauling him or her off to jail. (They must be proud of themselves for having that shrewd ability, y’know?)

 

Sure enough, I found myself threatened with arrest simply for standing up for what I had a perfectly legitimate right to do. An exchange of unpleasantries ensued but the highlight came when the cop, frustrated by his inability to match my intellectual arguments, insulted me for having a “girl’s name” for a middle name. In the end, he didn’t arrest either of us, but it certainly underscores not only the kind of priorities on their agenda (focusing police resources on the collection of petitions rather than on real crime) but what lengths the so-called law enforcement community will go to deprive an individual of their Constitutional rights. A phone call Kay later made to the police department was met with similar hostility.

 

So I made a call to Richard Winger, leading election law scholar in the country, who lives in San Francisco. Richard cited the U.S. Supreme Court case of US v Kokinda, 497 US 720 (1990), which said that “…soliciting has a very narrow, clear-cut meaning. .. ‘anything that causes the exchange of money’…” and that petitioning signatures cannot fall under this language.

 

On Monday, I called a reporter with Ocean City Today and gave her my story. In addition, as luck would have it, the town council was set to meet at 7:30 that very evening, and another reporter would be there covering it. Kay and I went down there and not only did we find three different reporters eager to take information from us, but the meeting actually made a provision for citizens’ feedback and interaction with the council.

 

I took my cue to go up to the podium and present my case. Although I never addressed the constitutionality of the ordinance, I did contend that it was being misapplied to us and chided the police department for its role in what amounts to obstruction of the electoral process. I cited Kokinda and made it clear that the petition was a legal document issued by the State of Maryland and we were engaging in activity consistent with the intent of the state. The council members failed to satisfy me in my wish to have some sort of recognition that. we indeed had the right to petition without fear of their ordinance being erroneously (maliciously is more like it) applied to petitioning. However, the press was very friendly and supportive and seemed to be opposed to the whole idea of the ordinance in the first place, even as it pertains to soliciting.

 

As one last shot, I decided to issue an epistle to the letters—to-the–editor section of the newspaper, the text of which appears as follows:

 

“We wish to use this forum to express our deep disappointment for the  dishonorable treatment given the First Amendment by the Ocean City Council and the Ocean City Police Department.

 

To begin with, a ban on any type of peaceful expression, association or activity on a public boardwalk insults our Bill of Rights and, in our view, smacks of treason. But to misapply that ban in such a perverted way as to obstruct a citizen’s engagement in important and serious civic business (circulating an official petition sanctioned and required by the State of Maryland), then this goes way too far and becomes grotesque.

 

This is what happened to us over the weekend of the White Marlin Festival. As voters seeking only to gain access to the ballot and to the electoral process via the only mechanism available to us by state law (circulating a ballot access petition), denying us access to a busy public thoroughfare is nothing less than obstruction of the democratic electoral process.

 

Contrary to relevant Supreme Court decisions that have unequivocally declared that petitioning cannot be subject to the same type of prohibition that might be placed on soliciting (they are two entirely separate legal concepts), the Council and police department has told us that they nevertheless will continue to treat us as if we were soliciting.

 

Since our petitioning constitutes legitimate civic business which involves the actual compliance with a state law or directive, Ocean City’s willingness to arrest and prosecute us reveals the most ironic hypocrisy of all: the assertion that it’s against the law to comply with the law! I can’t think of anything more un-American.”

                                                                                                                       

We’re hoping that this will set the stage for the curtailment of future petitioners being harassed by extremist policymakers and enforcers.

 

Ocean City Has More

 

O.K., admittedly Ocean City is home to policymakers who have contempt for individual freedom of expression and association. But in the spirit of open-mindedness, I’m here to say that Ocean City is much more than mean old council members and thuggish cops.

 

True to its resort town appeal, Ocean City, resembling an Atlantic City without the gambling, has that effervescent boardwalk which attracts tens of thousands of tourists each day in the summer. From the boardwalk, you can see all kinds of shops, games, arcades, rides, food pavilions, etc., all the while being able to see the beautiful Atlantic waves crash up onto the white sandy beach. Streets parallel to the boardwalk are lined with Smorgasbord and all-you-can-eat places, and this town has some of the best seafood buffets in the country. Maryland, especially the Eastern Shore, is known for its crab and crab dishes and it’s impossible to escape the crab influence here.

 

Kay and I made sure we had one of those seafood buffets before we left and it was downright excellent! Crab, shrimp, scallops, clams, everything. What a treat. An Ocean City experience to remember.

 

Gary shows entrance to Assateague Isl.

Gary shows entrance to Assateague Isl.

 

Kay on beach at Assateague

Kay on beach at Assateague

Also, Kay and I took a drive down to Assateague Island, a pristine beach devoid of any condos and glitter, encompassed in the national seashore. There, wild ponies roam all over the island and yes, Kay and I got to see and take pictures of their magnificence. We strolled along the quiet beaches and even lay down in the sand on a blanket for a while.

 

Frogger Revisited

 

For those of you who weren’t aware, I have had the distinct satisfaction of possessing the world’s record in something.  In 1982, when video games were popular, I was introduced to a game called ‘Frogger’

 

In this game, the participant is challenged on a video screen to get a frog image across a busy street and across a perilous river into a safe lily pad. The participant is issued three “frog lives”, with a bonus frog life given with the ascension of 20,000 points. “Lives” are lost by various means, such as getting run over by a car, getting bit by a snake or alligator, falling into the water, etc. The participant can play as long as there are still frog lives to work with; depletion of all frog lives ends the game.

 

Late in 1982, I noticed that Games magazine listed a record score of 71,230. At the time, the best score I’d ever done was around 60,000. Already, I was the acknowledged “champion” in my parts (the west Texas area where I lived) as no one I’d ever played with (or known about) had ever surpassed a score of 20,000, let alone my lofty score.

 

When I found out about the Games score, I decided I was on an odyssey to eclipse that score and become the known world record holder.

 

It didn’t take long, and soon my picture was in the paper, as I shattered the Games record by achieving almost 80,000 points. Within three years, I’d managed to rack up an unbelievably high score of 129,090, a record which still stands to the best of my knowledge. That same year, I noticed that The Guinness Book of World Records listed a high score far below 80,000. Given the circumstantial evidence, I could safely say that I was the world champion on Frogger!

Gary plays Frogger in 1982

Gary plays Frogger in 1982

 

 

 

Gary plays Frogger in 1982

Gary plays Frogger in 1982

 

A couple of days ago in Ocean City, on the boardwalk, I discovered a Frogger machine and felt compelled, for old times’ sake, to show Kay “how it was done”. Even though I hadn’t played for years, I walked away from the machine, after having spent only a couple of dollars, with an incredible 85,000 point tally. He’s still got it…

 

Liberty and Independence in Philadelphia

 

 The beautiful thing about the petitioning lifestyle is that you get to see all the regional sights. For example, while petitioning Alabama, we got to take in a Louisiana Bayou, a Florida beach and the Great Smoky Mountains. While in Maryland, we got to do Harpers Ferry, Washington, D.C. and the Ocean City Coast. And that cradle of libertarian ideas – Philadelphia.

 

We planned to do it on an evening drive after petitioning. We went to Baltimore to Oriole Park at Camden Yards so that we could collect signatures on opening day, Orioles vs. Milwaukee. However, it turned out that it wasn’t so good petitioning, we didn’t like the crowd, so we decided to pack it in and call it a day. We wandered over to Lexington Market, a well—renowned food court in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where our car was parked and then took off.

 

Gary on Philadelphia excursion

Gary on Philadelphia excursion

It only took us about two hours to arrive into Philadelphia, but we pulled right into town about 15 minutes before 5:00, closing time for the historic sights. This gave us about a quarter hour to take a quick tour of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed; and then walked over to take a brief glimpse of the Liberty Bell. After that, we took a driving tour of the City of Brotherly Love, marveling at the expanse of it all, before coming back to our Frederick pad after supper.

 

Arizona, Here We Come

 

We got the word just yesterday: we’re going to Arizona.  For a while, we’d been on pins and needles wondering where we could work after Maryland was through. In talking with Bill Redpath, senior ballot access advisor for the national party, he had hinted that. there might be work in Arizona, but when I called there was problems with funding. Another option was Nebraska, where the contractor out there, Jerry Kosch, had a dismal performance since the three months he’d accepted the contract.

 

Then there was the initiative in California, the civil rights initiative that.would repeal Affirmative Action, but it was only paying 25* per signature and no lodging.  Redpath said that in the near future, Florida, Oklahoma or North Dakota might be opening up for LP ballot access, but nothing immediately. And term limits, depending on the decision which is forthcoming from the U.S. Supreme Court, might have lots of work in upcoming ballot drives. It’s difficult not knowing where your next job site is.

 

We even went into the national Libertarian Party headquarters in Washington, D.C. to do some personal lobbying with Perry Willis, the national director, and Cynthia, the new ballot access coordinator recently hired.   We were told that there were some problems indeed with the Arizona LP, but that this could be worked out soon and maybe we’d get to go down there.

 

One of the reasons we wanted to go to Arizona is that it would be an entirely new animal. Rather than collecting signatures for ballot access, the party has decided to register a certain number of voters as Libertarian so that we could achieve permanent ballot status in that state. The pay would be commensurate with the slightly higher difficulty level of getting a person to register as a Libertarian, is opposed to merely give us permission to be on the ballot.

 

On the plus side, we’d be dealing only with Libertarians and Libertarian sympathizers. No more wasting our time with contemptuous two-party apologists. It would be more like outreach, or campaigning, even, where we could deal more with peoples from an issues—oriented approach.

 

In addition, traveling to the southwest could give Kay and me a different atmosphere, a different part of the country to share, a change of pace. And it would enable us to go through Texas and see people don there and show Kay my hometown.

 

On the negative side, it might indeed be difficult to talk people into registering as Libertarians and/or changing their registration to Libertarian. However, I’m looking at it as a challenge, so we’ll see. The other negative is the climate – Arizona can be intensely hot and Kay’s a little apprehensive about how it’ll be.

 

Political Commentary

 

I’m a little bit (obviously) irritated by the media, the Clinton administration and others who suggest that there’s something abnormal about being suspicious of, .or loathing the government. They should get a life and learn some history. Two hundred and twenty years ago, they overthrew their own government, for heaven’s sake. Give me a break.

 

But anyone who thinks the government is a friendly bunch of nice guys who should be trusted should stop for a moment and think about Waco. Or Idaho. Or Kent State. Or Hiroshima. Or Wounded Knee. Or even my own Miami experience, circa 1991. The NRA’s recent portrayal of government agents as “jack-booted thugs” is amazingly right on the mark. It blows my mind how people can say they’re against guns (rationale for Waco & Idaho) but yet have no problem with seeing government agents closing in on private citizens (FBI, ATF, DEA, IRS) who are armed to the teeth. What’s wrong with people? If the NRA’s description is not an accurate one, then what is? Do they dress like Easter Bunnies? And they have the chutzpah to criticize these citizen militias that are springing up? Again, give me a break. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that these militias have only sprung up in response to a government getting bigger and more hostile.

 

Clinton and the media can talk all they want about how they think that the idea of government tyranny is something far removed and must be a figment of our imaginations, but I don’t know who they think they’re trying to convince – the millions of people who’ve been victimized by government agents? With me, of course, it’s not hypothetical at all. I’ve been brutalized and victimized by the “jack-booted thugs”, so I already know Clinton’s talk is ridiculous. Or did Miami never happen? Talk about trying to brainwash the population.

 

I’ll say this: I’ve anticipated for some time now that the government, not to be content with going after non-mainstream churches and white separatists, would begin to go after other groups with a vengeance, such as tax resisters and libertarians. So, in targeting now those who are “anti-government”, it comes as no surprise. I wouldn’t even be surprised that this is not deliberate.

 

I have no proof, and I don’t want to sound like one of those “conspiracy” nuts, but, to be frank, this Oklahoma City thing smacks of frame and cover-up. The motive is certainly there. And I can’t feature anyone who is anti-government and wanted to get back at the government bombing innocent children in a day care. It doesn’t make sense. Given the government’s propensity to lie, cheat and defraud, the chances that this was a covert government operation is very high, I’ll say that. Who knows – we might see McVeigh and Nichols in the federal witness protection program soon.

 

 

Next Issue (August 19, 1995):

https://libertycrusader.wordpress.com/libertarian-crusader-diary/archived-back-issues/august-19-1995-lcd/

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