Dome: N.C. State's police fee stops planned demonstration

FROM STAFF REPORTSDecember 8, 2012 

The liberal group Progress N.C. canceled plans to demonstrate at N.C. State University on Sunday because it couldn’t afford to pay for the police presence that the university required.

The organization planned to bring about 20 people to demonstrate outside an event on campus featuring a multitude of national and state figures in a two-day forum titled Redesigning Democracy Summit. The demonstrators wanted to counter the appearance of one of the speakers, anti-tax guru Grover Norquist.

Campus police approved a permit to demonstrate, but said it would have to assign up to 10 officers for at least three hours at a cost of $1,350, which Progress N.C. says it can’t afford. The group enlisted an attorney, bargaining the university down to a range of $100 to $500, but the lawyer said it could afford no more than $150 tops. That’s where negotiations broke down, according to a chain of emails the group shared with Dome.

The attorney, Raleigh lawyer Michael Weisel, warned NCSU its insistence on charging demonstrators could be unconstitutional, and added, “NCSU’s action in chilling free speech harkens back to 1963’s Act to Regulate Visiting Speakers, otherwise known as the Speaker Ban Law.”

NCSU’s position, stated in emails by Eileen Goldgeier, vice chancellor and general counsel for the university, is that it has tried to accommodate the group’s financial concerns and that every effort would be made to keep the costs as low as possible. After Dome inquired, Goldgeier provided an email she sent to Weisel late Saturday afternoon informing him NCSU could keep the bill to $150 if no more than 20 peaceful demonstrators attend. Goldgeier said NCSU was trying to avoid stifling speech by working with Progress N.C. She added that the campus police are providing security at a women’s basketball game Sunday afternoon, and the chief was trying to avoid calling extra officers to duty.

The group had not decided Saturday evening whether to resurrect the demonstration on such late notice. “Clearly, N.C. State needs to revisit a policy over a ‘free speech fee,’ which is so arbitrary that it reduces a constitutional right to a used car negotiation,” Brenner said.

Reports ID GOP donors

Federal campaign finance reports that came out last week provide a closer look at who the corporations were behind the national GOP group that pumped more than $1 million into one of the super PACs that backed state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby’s re-election.

The Republican State Leadership Committee reports spending $13.3 million on campaigns around the country. It sent $1,165,000 to Justice for All N.C., which in turn contributed heavily to the N.C. Judicial Coalition. Reports for those super PACs aren’t in yet.

Previously unreported contributors to the Republican State Leadership Committee include: Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C., $5,000; Coca-Cola Bottling Co., $5,000; Mark Craig, president of R.H. Barringer Distributing Co., $25,000; Duke Energy/Duke Power Co., $100,000; Henry Faison, chairman of a Charlotte property development company, $50,000; Michael Kahn, owner of the Charlotte Checkers ice hockey team, and his wife, Wendy Kahn, $25,000 each; Lorillard Tobacco Co., $125,764; SAS, $20,000; and Smithfield Foods, $25,000.

The group also sent $25,000 to Citizens for Accountability, a Charlotte group, and $50,000 to Real Jobs N.C., a pro-business organization.

Same-sex marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement Friday that it will consider a couple of cases dealing with same-sex marriage prompted a quick response from the proponents of the successful campaign to amend North Carolina’s constitutional definition of marriage earlier this year.

The North Carolina Values Coalition, which opposes same-sex marriage, sent out a release warning of a possible decision by “activist courts.”

“Marriage was created by God as the union of a man and a woman and is not something that the courts or homosexual activists have a right to re-define,” said Tami Fitzgerald, the coalition’s executive director.

Fitzgerald also said a Supreme Court decision on the California marriage amendment, one of the cases accepted by the court, “is not likely to have an impact on North Carolina’s marriage laws” because voters in California repealed a previous decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

“North Carolina does not have that same set of facts and never will,” she said.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis and Austin Baird

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