Anchorage Press 
Vol. 13, Ed. 9 March 4 - March 10 2004


See you in court

The case of two political activists who were arrested for trespassing last April while passing out leaflets outside the Sullivan Arena appears to be headed for trial. On Thursday, February 26, Anchorage district court Judge James N. Wanamaker denied two motions field by attorney Karen Bretz to dismiss the case. Bretz represents herself and Uwe Kalenka. The activists were passing out leaflets as part of Kalenka's 2003 campaign for a seat on the Chugach Electric Association board when they were arrested.

Bretz and Kalenka face misdemeanor charges. The incident took place outside the northwest arena gate, near the big steel sculpture, while a ticketed trade show called the Great Alaskan Sportsman Show was taking place inside.

The municipality charged the defendants with trespassing on private property. Bretz argued that the case should be dismissed because the Sullivan Arena is definitely public property. The municipality says the facility is private when it's rented to a private group.  

Her co-counsel, Mat-Su attorney and reindeer farmer Tom Williams, also argued that Anchorage's trespassing law was so vaguely written that it should be deemed unconstitutional.

Judge Wanamaker tossed both motions, and is going to leave it up to a jury. Wanamaker then set a pre-trial date for March 8, at which the two sides might  resolve some of the private vs. public property questions.

Last week's proceedings gave a preview of what a trial might be like, should it happen. Flashlight was definitely  amused. It's not often we get to hear the name of Marilyn Manson invoked in court.

“Is the municipality going to be able to convince a jury that we were knowingly on private property?” Bretz asked the judge. Then she said that if you ask ten people if the sidewalks around the Sullivan Arena are private or public, “ten will say public.”

City prosecutor John McConnaughy III, told the judge that Bretz's argument ignored the fact that the city can always amend the charges to trespassing on public property if it wishes - and said the city reserves that right. But McConnaughy believes the code is properly applied and said it's up to the arena's renter to decide who is welcome. “And the municipality should not be able to tell (the renter) who they can't keep out,” McConnaughy said.

Marilyn Manson's name came up because of a New Jersey case in which management at a publicly owned facility refused to allow the band to play there, claiming safety concerns. A court ruled in the band's favor because the safety concerns weren't sufficient to stifle free speech. There was also talk about a case involving the musical “Hair” and some blue noses that wanted to stop the act from playing at a private venue. An Anchorage incident from 2002 in which a women's show denied an anti-abortion group access to set up a booth at the arena was also referred to.  

Scott Christiansen