Thursday, August 10, 2006

Manager of shopping center ends silence: Rich Collins sought arrest for publicity

Shopping center action reasonable

Letter by Charles T. Lebo, Albemarle County. August 2, 2006. The Daily Progress

About a year ago I was contacted by a store manager from one of the shopping centers that I manage near Charlottesville. He was receiving complaints from customers about being harassed by someone handing out political literature. The manager asked the person to leave and he refused. I was asked to intervene. The Albemarle County police and I attempted to reason with this individual, who again refused to leave the premises and was subsequently arrested for trespassing.

This act has been described publicly as instilling a "culture of meanness." I am taken aback by this insult to my integrity.

I have contributed to this community for more than 30 years, and those who know me can vouch that I am not a "mean" person.

For more than a year I have been quiet about this episode. Now it is my turn.

I went to the shopping center and saw this individual approaching customers as they were getting out of their vehicles. I told him he was on private property and explained that soliciting at any of the shopping centers that I manage was not allowed. I politely asked him to leave. He then stated he had certain constitutional rights and refused.

I had no choice but to call police. For more than an hour the officers and I pleaded with him to leave the premises. The police were truly professional and could not have been kinder. We told him repeatedly that if he would simply leave, he would not be arrested. He eventually said he wanted to be arrested, as this would provide publicity for his campaign.

The American Civil Liberties Union took up his case and wasted our tax dollars on a trial and appeals. Esteemed judges in two local courts ruled against this individual.

The rights of those of us who espouse personal property have thus far won. The battle is not over. Because of the large donations made to the Rutherford Institute and the ACLU, these organizations can continue to challenge our personal property rights. They are appealing this case for a third trial; if they lose, they will eventually take this to the Virginia Supreme Court. When is enough, enough?

There is no "culture of meanness" here. The Rutherford Institute and the ACLU need to find better justifiable causes before they attack persons like me.

Despite such attacks, I contend that my contributions to this community are a testament to my being a good citizen.

Land theft proponent invokes free speech defense in trespass conviction


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