Pubdate: Fri, 05 Nov 2004
Source: Isthmus (WI)
Copyright: 2004 Isthmus
Author: Bill Lueders

Watch Out!


Marijuana activist Ben Masel went to last week's John Kerry rally in
downtown Madison with a clear goal: "I'm going to get arrested." He
did. Just past 11 am, Masel was accosted near the entrance, carrying a
cardboard sign touting hemp as a fuel source and agricultural product.
"No signs," declared a member of a local union providing event
security, as Madison police arrived. "Constitutionally protected,"
replied Masel. (At the rally, pro-Kerry signs were handed out.
Stoughton resident Russ Horton was purportedly turned away for wearing
a pro-life T-shirt; numerous people wearing "Fuck Bush" T-shirts had
no problem.)

Security workers and police blocked Masel's way. A protracted struggle
ensued, with Masel pushing back with his body but not striking out.
One onlooker became agitated. "Why do you want to do this!" he shouted
at Masel, who answered, "Nobody takes my free-speech rights away, not
even my friends!" ("My friends"? Talk about a missed GOP attack-ad

Most onlookers sided with Masel, who recently turned 50. "Relax, he's
just an old dude!" yelled one young dude. "Let him go!" shouted
someone else. A few people took this up as a chant.

Eventually, the sign was torn from Masel's hands and police forced him
face down into the gutter, slapping on the cuffs. Four cops each
grabbed an appendage and carried him to a squad, letting him walk the
last stretch. "Going to jail for carrying a sign!" shouted Masel at
people in line. A few boos and shouts. "Let him go!"

The officers emptied Masel's pockets, pulling out crumpled bills. He
said it was for bail money and they complimented his preparedness.
Masel was booked, cited for non-criminal disorderly conduct and
released in time to catch part of the rally, where he displayed his
sign -- which police had measured and photographed -- without incident.

Masel, whose won similar cases in the past, plans to fight his
citation in court and sue the city and Kerry campaign. But he'd "be
willing to settle for a very nominal sum, with a written apology, if
it comes before my attorney and I invest significant time." 
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