Attorney Mark W. Benjamin never got the public debate with health tyrants he solicited but is now seizing on the first citation of a "Theatre Night" production to force a confrontation in a courtroom.
We have reported extensively on the "Theatre Night" movement in Minnesota. The state’s smoking ban has an exemption for theatrical performances. Therefore owners of hospitality venues have assigned roles to all their patrons. This allows everybody to smoke within the law. It’s been going on for weeks.

The prohibitionists are in a tizzy about it. They have been avoiding enforcing the law, because this is legal quicksand, the tavern "Theatre Nights" give every appearance of perfect compliance with the vaguely written exemption. At the same time the prohibitionists have not dared tweak the law.

The theatre nights have made clear that general satisfaction with the ban, touted in Minnesota as everywhere by the Healthists, is a ridiculous lie. Therefore re-opening debate in the legislature, Anti fears, could produce more exemptions, rather than effecting a tightening or outright removal of the theatrical exemption, as Anti would like it.

Indeed, at this writing no reinforcement of the smoking ban has been proposed by Healthists, but more and extensive exemptions were proposed on Thursday, by legislators who have begun listening to their constituents. Furthermore, numerous legislators are now sympathetic to an outright repeal of the smoking ban. The situation in the legislature is certainly unsettling to health fascists but we stress that this picture remains nebulous at this writing. We shall be watching this closely.

In the meantime, with characteristic contempt for both law and decency, prohibitionist forces at the state level, crippled by the weakness of their legal position vis-à-vis "Theatre Nights," have resorted to browbeating local authorities, with threats of loss of state funds, if ways are not found to bludgeon the hospitality trade into conformance with the smoker pogrom.

This has resulted in a variety of hasty moves, variably from town to town, depending on the oppressive tendencies, or the simple taste of fear, affecting officialdom in one locality or the next.

Attempts have been made to redefine theatrical productions spontaneously with no basis in law. Plain threats of enforcement without citation have abounded. The spectres of white-glove health code and building inspections have been lofted. Sudden reviews of liquor or food service licenses, on tangential bases, have likewise been dangled as prospects of doom. We have covered this in recent days. Here is another recent example involving Brian Bauman, owner of a tavern called The Rock: (Article) (stored version) (Video).

Now Mark Benjamin, the attorney who has spear-headed the "Theatre Night" challenge, finally has an opportunity to put on the gloves. On Friday afternoon, 14 March, a local police chief, in response to the pressure for a crack-down, finally took the direct approach, and did what no one has done before.

Police Chief Terry Switajewski of Babbitt Village within the City of Babbitt issued a ticket to Thomas Marinaro, owner of Tank’s bar, for the crime of producing a "Theatre Night" production in violation of state law.

Upon hearing of this Attorney Benjamin immediately announced he would defend the case for free and has waived all preliminary hearings in requesting either immediate dismissal or a timely court trial. This story has not yet appeared in the mass-media. We link here to a press release prepared late on Friday by Mark Benjamin’s office: (Press Release).

Update: a news article of Saturday night also reports that an (unnamed) bar patron was cited along with bar owner Tom Marinaro. Both Tom and his customer reportedly "lit up another cigarette" upon receiving their tickets. Links: (Article) (stored version).

Update: FORCES readers know the typical intransigence of legislators influenced by Healthist fanaticism. However, in light of proposed emendations to the smoking ban law pending in the Minnesota legislature under present conditions there (for further related info and links to the proposed legislative changes refer to the second-to-last paragraph of 14 March posting "The Debate Is Over") we do recommend that Minnesotans speak up loudly to their legislators, demanding recovery from hysteria and restoration of personal dignity and individual choice. The ban should be repealed in toto. Make a point of saying so. A list of Minnesota State House Representatives: (Link) (stored version). A list of Minnesota State Senators: (Link) (stored version).

Update: KSTP-TV News reported Saturday night on Bauman’s wary attitude and on Marinaro’s perseverance. KSTP got in touch with the Health Department about continuing developments, and for once at least dredged up a comment, to wit, that the Health Department "didn’t know" what ban enforcements were taking place. Make of that what you will. Links: (Article) (stored version) (Video).

More updates:

A weekend report from WDIO-TV rendered little that is new, other than that the Babbitt Village police chief said the citation of Tank’s bar was for a misdemeanor, that he did not anticipate that Tom Marinaro would lose his business license, and that further queries should be addressed to the city attorney. The city attorney was not available for comment. The Duluth News Tribune gives a smidgen more info on the customer at Tank’s who got a ticket (he was "a snowmobiler from the Twin Cities area") and a few other details. Links: (Article) (stored version).

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune was true to form in its goose-stepping on Sunday. We link to this editorial (Article) (stored version) but it can be summed up as: "Secondhand smoke kills. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke. The debate is / was / over / not now / never. Persons like Mark Benjamin who interfere with smoker eradication are deliberate baby-killers." Apart from claiming blood relation between Benjamin and Philip Morris (perhaps they’ll get around to that) it’s all the usual razzmatazz. The paper tells us, ho-hum, of "lives saved" by smoking bans, without even bothering in this case to cite any particular junk science. Of course we can assume what they have in mind and we cover such nonsense research all the time. Click here for just four recent examples: (First) (Second) (Third) (Fourth). The good news is that increasing numbers of Minnesotans, and others, are awakening to the viciously nonsensical nature of Healthism and its many media acolytes.

The Minnesota situation is of the highest interest as it continues to develop. Whatever the eventual outcome in that state, there has been a publicity breakthrough in exposing the dishonest and brutish nature of antitobacco, and there shall be lessons in this episode for resistance to nanny state tyrannies worldwide. The Minnesotans are fighting on. Continuing updates on this story will appear on our news page as appropriate.



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