Property rights and free speech – two of the most base freedoms we possess. I mentioned this situation when it first occurred; to quote Ted Corcoran then – … in the wake of the larger trend of the vanishing-downtown, that portions of mall parking lots and/or sidewalks (infrastructure often paid-for thru proffers and government-aided gimmes) remain public spaces, free to those that choose to speak out within agreed-on modes of behavior. …
How do you trust government to achieve and implement this balance?
The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed states to determine such free-speech-versus-property-rights cases. So far, Virginia courts have not given a definitive ruling.
Shopping centers have replaced downtown areas as places where people congregate and share ideas, lawyers for Collins state in the lawsuit. Hence, space for such exchanges has diminished.
â€œAs corporations and shopping centers get bigger, where do people go? They go to the shopping centers,â€ Whitehead said. â€œIt’s the only place where people can congregate, where people can exchange ideas, leaflets.â€
I see both sides, but think (for what it’s worth) that private property rights trump the the freedom of speech. This case parallels the current eminent domain fiasco to such a degree that the lines don’t need to be drawn. Government has proven that, when given access to power, it will take more. Redistribution of this power remains wrong, even if the “victim” is “the little guy being able to have a place to meet the public.â€
The VACLU says
â€œShopping centers, particularly in suburban areas, have for all intents and purposes replaced the traditional town centers where people shop, mingle and exchange views,â€ said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. â€œThe framers of the Virginia Constitution clearly intended to protect free speech in such places.â€
â€œIf the free speech clause of the Virginia Constitution protects my right to hand out campaign literature outside a store in Charlottesville’s downtown mall or Old Town Alexandria, then I should also be able to stand outside a store in a large shopping center and do the same. One space may be publicly owned and the other privately owned, but they are both used in exactly the same way by the public.â€
I don’t know; I remain open minded and look forward to reading the merits of both sides. My instinctual reaction remains one to protect one’s private property rights. How would I campaign if I were running for something? Government does not have the integrity right now that is so vital in this case. The next few weeks should prove to be interesting.