Thursday, September 16, 2010

What Else Needs A Permit in Rexburg?

BYU-Idaho psychology student Ford Erickson can’t win for losing.

Last year, he tried to organize an “epic” water fight at Rexburg’s Porter Park, but saw the effort thwarted minutes before it was to begin by the Rexburg Police Department, who ordered the balloon-tossers to disperse because they didn’t have a permit to use the park for a group activity.

Then this past weekend, his “Largest Bike Gang Ride in the History of Rexburg” was pulled off Main Street by the RPD, again upset that Erickson hadn’t secured the proper city permit for a “group event for bicyclists” in order to hold the event.

This won’t turn into a David vs. Goliath, RPD vs. BYU-Idaho student rant, though I will kindly roll my eyes in the general direction of the city of Rexburg which, truth be told, doesn’t seem to be able to handle this crazy thing called bored youth very well.

There are Constitutional implications here, of course. The First Amendment says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Then again, it ain’t Congress asking these folks to obtain a permit to hold these events, which certainly aren’t being held for redress of grievances. That might be an angle for Erickson to take: Largest Bike Gang Ride in the History of Rexburg to Protect Students’ Rights to Peaceably Assemble. That might make the RPD think twice about stopping them.

Idaho’s take on the right of assembly seems to be a bit broader than the protection offered by the First Amendment:
The people shall have the right to assemble in a peaceable manner, to consult for their common good; to instruct their representatives, and to petition the legislature for the redress of grievances.
Idaho’s wording might not have protected the water fight as an assembly “in a peaceable manner,” as a previous fight resulted in some injuries, but it certainly would have protected the group’s bicycling rights.

I also have to wonder how the RPD would have responded if this had been a group of motorcyclists randomly circulating through town. I kinda think their response would have been different, as would have the bikers’.

Now, I’m no expert on the law. But I am an expert on silliness. So in that silly vein, let me add here a list of other seemingly harmless activities for which you’re likely required to get a permit in the city of Rexburg:

1) Croquet matches involving more than three people.
2) Questioning authority if the questioning is done by more than two people.
3) Repeating high school cheerleading squad cheers in an organized fashion while using crosswalk flags in city crosswalks, if said use and chanting is done by more than three people and more than two crossings per hour are performed.
4) Pretending that the mass traffic on Second East is an organized motoring event, if the hallucination is shared by more than two drivers on the same block within three minutes of each other.
5) Re-enacting the musical numbers from 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz” in a public place, if said performances are done by more than three people and the decibel level exceeds 85.

There are, of course, events for which there are no permits required in Rexburg:

1) The bearing of excruciatingly boring personal testimonies by any number of churchgoers on any given first Sunday of the month.
2) Walking more than three abreast in local big box stores, especially when said walking is at a speed not to exceed on hundred feet an hour.
3) The annual late August/early September group pillaging of Wal-Mart.
4) Organized assaults by random individuals selling “discount cards” and ties at the local grocery store.
5) Local police “doing their duty” but looking like right asses while doing so.
6) The assembly of gigantic mounds of snow in the middle of the road during the winter, making driving on Rexburg’s already hazardous winter roads even that much more interesting.

So to summarize: Police, keeping doing your duty, but maybe consider lightening up a little. And kids, get a permit. Then stand up for your rights.


Nate said...

Very well put. Especially the last part about the police lightening up and for who ever is in charge of the event to get a blasted permit.

There are two things you are forgetting: The Rexburg Police are The City of Rexburg's lap-dogs. The only reason they were there to call off the second water fight was because the City of Rexburg wanted the fight broken up.

The second thing you are forgetting is that shortly after the water fight was called off by the police, some students approached City Council to demand why their rights were violated, and then and there Jabba the Hutt, aka Rex Erickson indefinitely banned water fights.

Mister Fweem said...

There's just such an interesting contrast here between BYU-Idaho/Rexburg's approach and BYU-Utah. Have any of the organizers asked the university if they'd "host" a waterfight, or are organizers just assuming the answer will be no.

And you know what, even if the RPD is the city's lap dog, and even if Jabbas the Hutt effectively banned water fights, are the students just going to curl up and die? Come on. You're not asking for the moon. Go to the city and ask for a redress of your grievances. Approach city council members individually and find someone sympathetic to your cause. Catch them cold and they're going to sway to the one with the loudest voice. Find one to back you up and maybe Jabba will get shut down.

Nate said...

You have some good ideas there. I want to have another "Epic" Water Fight. It is true, just because they say no doesn't mean we have to accept it!