Gathering signatures is hard work. Anyone who has done it for hire or as a volunteer will tell you that. However, it’s a worthwhile gig because a signature gatherer for a citizen’s initiative is on the front lines of democracy. As long as signature gatherers are operating in a public area, they should be free from harassment, and definitely shouldn’t be arrested. Sadly, that wasn’t the case for Regina Ann Petkus in 20111.
Regina was gathering signatures for Colorado Amendment 64 in 2011, and was arrested after she was told by an off duty police officer to cease what she was doing. The request by the off duty officer was made despite the fact that Regina was operating in a public area. After spending a night in jail, Regina sued, and has won a $25,000 settlement. Per The Cannabist:
Her lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, said Denver Police Department Sgt. Hubert Martin Vanover arrested her while he was working off-duty security for the Ogden. He ordered her to stop collecting signatures near the Ogden, the lawsuit says, even though Petkus was standing in a public alleyway, where such activity was allowed.
The suit says Petkus spent a night in jail and later won dismissal of charges of giving false information, trespassing and loitering under a deferred judgment.
The settlement, approved 12-0, provides $14,600 for Petkus and $10,400 for her attorneys at the law office of Killmer, Lane and Newman in Denver.
Although I’m sure we will never know, I’d wish there was a way to know if the off duty police officer was just mad that Regina was collecting signatures in general, or if it was specifically because she was gathering signatures for a marijuana initiative. Like I said, I’m sure we will never know. I’m glad that justice will finally be served, as arresting someone for participating in democracy is inexcusable. Hopefully this serves as a lesson to anyone else that tries to falsely arrest a signature gatherer, for marijuana initiatives or otherwise.