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Quote of the Day - People are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it's safer to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs. - Unknown
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Watch What You Wear To The Gilroy Garlic Festival- They May Throw You Out, Top Hat And All

George Villegas and other members of the Top Hatters Motorcycle Club went for a ride to the Gilroy Garlic Festival in hopes of having such treats as garlic ice cream and garlic smoothies.

No, I am not kidding.  Well, maybe George and the gang weren't specifically looking for garlic ice cream, but if they had wanted it, they could have bought it.  Yuck.  And I love garlic.  But in ice cream?

Anyway, George and the boys wore vests that had on the back a skull with wings, wearing a top hat and the club's name on top and "Hollister" on the bottom.  We all know what happened at Hollister.  Now don't get me wrong here.  Regular readers know I ride a motorcycle, too.  I don't, however, belong to a gang but I do wear a Welsh flag on the back of my jacket that bears a red dragon.  I guess you could consider that a gang, but it's more like part of a country. 

Shortly after they arrived, George and the other members of the Top Hatters Motorcycle Club were escorted from the Gilroy Garlic Festival at Christmas Hill Park by a City of Gilroy police officer for violating an unwritten policy of the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association.  Apparently, you're supposed to know that the Festival prohibits guests from wearing "gang colors or motorcycle club insignia."  Don't ask me where the quotes came from.  It was quoted that way in the case.  I don't quite get how you can "quote" an unwritten policy, but I guess that's why I'm not on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The Festival invited them to stay if they removed their "colors" and when they didn't the Festival refunded the members' price of admission.  The members were free to wear their colors elsewhere in the City.  The Festival had adopted the unwritten policy to stem gang violence which had risen in the prior years and adversely affected attendance.

Not surprisingly, George and Top Hatters sued the City and the Festival organizers under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 for violating their civil rights.

Here's where the going gets a little rough.  We have to go back to law school for a minute.  In order for your civil rights to be violated, the government has to do it.  A private party can violate civil rights too, but as a private citizen, the violator has to be a "state actor" in the words of the statute.  Now don't get too far ahead of me here.  I know what you're thinking.  You perceptively noted that I said a cop escorted George and the boys from the Festival.

"Aha! ," you exclaim.  "The police officer provides the nexus to create state action."  Well, you need one or two more facts before you can jump to that conclusion.  The police officer was contracted by the Festival to provide security services.  So at the time, she (Officer Brenda Bergman) was employed by the Festival, not the City.  The City and the Festival are not one in the same.  The Festival got a permit from the City and rented the park from the City.  The Festival was not put on by the City, but instead is a private, non-profit corporation.

Now you see the nexus is not really there. 

So, George and the boys got legitimately tossed out on their top hats.  Perhaps they would have had more luck if they tried an action against the just the Festival instead of the City, and tried selective enforcement or another non-governmental cause of action.  Maybe next year.  

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 09:40 Comments Closed (1) |
 
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