Today’s antitobacco technocrats are in the habit of twisting truth, twisting law, and twisting arms to impose their twisted ideology. Heretics are made to feel antitobacco’s power, under the weight of its vast wealth, under the light of surveillance by prohibitionist agencies including corrupted police, and under the brute force of threats and coercion. Minnesotans are growing wise to all of this, and shining a light on it, for all to see. In Minnesota the Nanny state is now under surveillance. We invite readers to review the Minnesotan activists’ freedomtoact web site, and our numerous related articles and videos at FORCES, covering the progress of the so-called "Theatre Night" defiance. In brief, Minnesota’s comprehensive smoking ban, which took effect last October, was ruinous to several sectors of the hospitality trade, as is the case everywhere such bans appear. Numerous bar and night club owners began, a couple of months ago, to take advantage of a loophole pointed out by Attorney Mark W. Benjamin. Actors may smoke in a play. Thus plays were put on, with patrons assigned roles if they wished, in night life locales all over the state.
The "bar plays" have every appearance of conformance with the vaguely written theatrical exemption. The rebellion has shed light on the baseless oppression of Minnesota’s ban. Under this light, antitobacco dares not re-open debate in the Legislature: this could likely result in more exemptions, or outright repeal of the ban, rather than granting antitobacco’s frantic wish to close the loophole. Thus the prohibitionists have attempted to work in the dark, employing their practices of manipulation, through intimidation.
These tactics, ranging from the crudest of threats (e.g. of white-glove building code inspections), to the most comical of contrivances (an attempt to coerce bar owners into signing a "pledge of allegiance" — a personal contract — to enforce the otherwise unenforceable smoker pogrom), have also received publicity, further engendering public indignation, and disgust, with the technocratic goon squad.
By and large, for months now, police shied from simply issuing tickets, given that "Theatre Night" does not in fact appear to violate the law. Three tickets, however, have been issued, and the first court trial has now been slated for Monday 28 April at 3:30 pm. In a fair courtroom the bar owner should prevail. A win by the bar owner would provide precedent for the legality of "Theatre Night." Antitobacco had hoped to effect dismissal of the case by effecting compliance via its goon tactics. Had it succeeded in this it would in effect have been able to exert its administrative authority outside and above the law.
The jackboot isn’t working, in Minnesota, as it has elsewhere. The test case is now scheduled and apparently will be heard. Antitobacco will try to put the fix in. We shall be watching closely. In the meantime, antitobacco is making various frantic moves, to reinforce its position. An expensive scare-mongering propaganda campaign has been initiated. Prohibitionists, organized and goaded in particular by the frothingly fanatical American Lung Association, are forming "fink" squads to report "Theatre Nights" to the trembling black hand of the Health Department, which continues its extra-legal manipulations, despite responses of blatant defiance and vocal disgust from affected business owners.
Late events include a continuing growth of "Theatre Night" presentations in more and more bars across Minnesota. Bar owners are now reporting frequent telephone inquiries from anonymous and edgy-sounding callers, wanting to know the bars’ policies on smoking, sounding like ALA finks. Local police departments, rather than issuing misdemeanor tickets as they are empowered to do, are being influenced to spout Health Department threats from behind their badges, thus abusing their position, and misrepresenting their capacity.
We take notice of all of this. The mainstream press, for once, is taking some notice too. Local and national news sources are reporting sporadically. John Stossel of the 20/20 television program is preparing a comprehensive story on the situation which will follow the trial and all events related to the rebellion. Stossel’s piece is expected to air on the ABC network this summer. Victims of jackboot tactics have been specifically requested to chronicle their experiences, on video tape when possible, for national airing. We present below an account of a recent incident, written by Terri Horridge, owner of Sabin’s bar, together with Attorney Mark Benjamin’s publicized response.
Saturday, 5 April 2008
The police showed up again last night Apr 4, at about 10:30 pm. Here are the facts as told by our bartender Heidi Kruger.
"Officer Chamernick and a lady officer named Katie came in and walked directly up to me. Officer Chamernick asked if my name was Heidi Kruger. I said yes. He asked, and was given my birthdate. He said I would be getting a ticket for putting on the play. I said ok. He asked who the other bartender was and I said Tracy. He asked Tracy what? and I said I don’t know. He said ok I’ll go talk to her. He came back a few minutes later and asked where the owner was, and I said he’s not here tonight. Chamernick said, so you’re in charge? and I said yes. He then said, you’re aware that this is a fine of $10,000? I said ok, and they both left."
We talked to Tracy Koop, our other bartender, and she said officer Chamernick also got her birthdate, and told her she would be getting a ticket too. They did not write out the tickets last night, so I assume they are going to mail them, or bring them in later. When Mike got home just after 12 am he was standing outside, and within 5 minutes, a police car drove by 4 times. I believe they will be back tonight, and maybe their next step will be to ticket customers. We shall see.
Sunday, 6 April 2008
I am copying the members of our group regarding the harassment of you and your bar employees and requesting that it be posted on our website. Obviously, the cops are unaware (or just stupid?) that they only have the statutory authority to issue a petty misdemeanor ticket (which, by definition, cannot be more than $300.)
Furthermore, it seems a waste of the city’s law enforcement resources to be sending a squad car to drive by your bar four times in a such a short period of time. Maybe the good citizens of Chisholm would want to weigh in on that at the next city council meeting.
Finally, ENOUGH with the talking and threatening about how they’re "going to" be issuing tickets or administrative penalty orders or whatEVER. We are now officially eight weeks into Theater Night in Minnesota and the state has only three pathetic tickets to show for it.
The next time they say that they’re "going to" issue tickets, ask them "When?" and "How about right now?"
It takes courage to be free. And the show goes on.
— Mark Benjamin
Even as preparations are made for the court trial the coercive tactics of administrative health authorities are being recorded and formal countermeasures are being investigated and discussed. Specialized counsel may be sought. Funds are needed to expand this effort. Checks should be made out to the Tavern League of Minnesota. Please note at the bottom of your check "Mark Benjamin’s Defense Fund." Send to: Tavern League of Minnesota, 235 East Roselawn, Suite 17, Maplewood, MN 55117. Regarding efforts to halt the goon tactics of health authorities, Mark Benjamin wrote supporters on Wednesday:
Hi All —
I am sending down to Kenn Rockler today a cashier’s check for $1,270 to help in hiring an administrative law attorney. Kenn says that he has about $600 in the kitty right now. That’s a drop in the bucket for the legal expenses we will incur — but it’s something.
I encourage everybody to get the word out that this movement is going to take some money if we are to successfully counter the tactics of the Health Department.
— Mark Benjamin
We encourage the Minnesotan activists to stand up fully for their rights and to keep fighting until their rights are fully restored. Follow these pages for continuing coverage of this story.