DA lets poster hanger off the hook

A Central Point woman who made headlines last month for blanketing the town in red posters to protest genocide in Uganda is off the hook with local courts and says she doesn't regret taking a stand.

Kari Livingston participated in the worldwide "KONY 2012" campaign (www.kony2012.com) last month.

After blanketing the town with fliers on April 20, Livingston was cited by Central Point Police with violations that could have led to fines of up to $1,000 per instance.

Livingston said she was given no reason for the case being dismissed other than the district attorney had opted not to pursue criminal charges or enforce a citation. No one in the Jackson County District Attorney's Office was available to comment.

"The whole thing has been very anti-climactic. It was going to be some big deal and then all of a sudden it was nothing really, really quick," Livingston said. "I think they realized it was going to cost taxpayers a lot of money to go to court on something ridiculous like that. It just would have been a huge waste of time and money."

Central Point police Capt. Chuck Newell, who said at the time that Livingston broke city and state laws relating to disturbing the peace and vandalizing, said he did not know why the county dropped charges against Livingston.

Newell said concerns of residents and business owners, from frustration with the sticky, flour and water substance used to adhere the posters to various surfaces, to misunderstandings about the KONY campaign were a very real concern.

Newell said calls from concerned residents ran the gamut from individuals who misunderstood the campaign's intent — viewing them instead as possible hate messages — to business owners who felt their own rights were violated by having posters displayed on private property without permission.

Some residents thought the fliers carried negative political and racial connotations.

Newell estimated several thousand posters, compiling a 10-inch stack, were displayed around town. He said the city's primary issue was that Livingston's choice to exercise her right to free speech had infringed on other citizens' rights.

"What makes this an interesting story to me is you have somebody who appears to think that she's expressing her First Amendment right — and she has the right to do that because everyone does. But when she did it, she denied other people their rights," Newell said.

"It's not like the circus was coming to town and somebody put up circus posters. She essentially said that she knew she made people mad but she wanted to get them 'off the couch.' The point was there are a lot of people who use their freedom of speech and it's important that no one person's freedoms deny someone else's."

Newell added, "I grew up in Los Angeles and, at any given time there's somebody handing out posters — and you can take it or not. The thing is they're exercising their rights while not infringing."

Given the chance, Livingston said she would not hesitate to post fliers again.

"The city is really picky about Central Point looking good, which I understand, but I didn't do anything to deface any of that and I took them all down like I said I was going to," she said.

"It was something important and it wasn't just here. There were something like 300,000 to 400,000 people that participated (worldwide). I would absolutely do it again."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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