Are you willing to be arrested? Sign up now!

Tracy blogged Let’s Stage a “Sit-Out” a month ago on the impending problems with the new sidewalk dining ordinance. The subsequent message thread wandered into pedestrian walkability and related issues so I thought I’d start fresh and up the ante.

There’s a city council work session on Monday and it’s quite possible that city staff recommendations on the fees for a sidewalk dining license, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, will be presented there, with an early July start for implementation.

I’m praying atheistic prayers (equally valid to other types, IMHO) that:

  • the application is simple/quick/easy
  • the license fee is cheap, ie, less than $25 for alcohol, less than $10 for non-alcohol
  • no additional building/business/food inspections are required/included

getting arrested

If my prayers are not answered on Monday night (someone alert the prayer ladies, please), I think that the sit-out/civil disobedience should include a group of willing participants getting arrested, handcuffed, and booked at the Northfield Safety Center.

This would be a great opportunity for all the baby-boomers in town who always wished that they’d gotten arrested for something important back in the 60s. And it would be an equally great opportunity for all the younger people in town to get this experience now, early in your career. Imagine being able to add this to your college application or job resume!

The only problem I can foresee is that all the attorneys in town are so busy with all the municipal-related lawsuits, we might have to rot in the Rice County Jail for a while until one of them has an opening in their schedule.  But I heard the jail has great wi-fi so it shouldn’t matter too much for those of us who work at a computer all day.

So if you’re willing to put your life and reputation on the line for the good of downtown Northfield, attach a comment now and be ready to mobilize next week.

What other issues need to be considered for this plan?


  1. Bruce Morlan said:


    Well, this post might be considered an “incitement to riot” which is an exception to the protections offered by the 1st amendment. Luckily you have covered your bets twice. By invoking god (prayer) you have (1) ensured a second layer of 1st amendment protection and (2) when they come to take you away you have already laid a good foundation for a temporary insanity plea.

    June 20, 2008
  2. John Thomas said:

    You know… I am growing weary of this, and here is why…

    How about the business owners that want this, show up at the council meeting, and speak their mind?

    I do not see a groundswell of residents that want this. If they do want it, they can show up and speak their mind as well.

    As of now, there is no reason for me to want to go and stage an act of civil disobedience, especially when there are so many more important things that need to be acted upon in the world.

    June 20, 2008
  3. kiffi summa said:

    Wouldn’t it be way more effective, as JT suggests, to stage a demo at the council?
    Unfortunately there is no open mic at work sessions, John.
    The vote is at the council, not the police station; the council is where the protest is most effective, unless you’re just anxious to experience the wi-fi at the jail.

    June 20, 2008
  4. Anthony Pierre said:

    Why don’t the business owners just give the council kickbacks? Thats how politics works. Then they will get it passed for sure.

    Or you could get someone to lobby in the store owners behalf. You know it works in congress with the telecom companies.

    Corruption is rampant in all levels of govt. Sorry for the rant.

    June 20, 2008
  5. Britt Ackerman said:

    I’m all for civil disobedience, Griff. The only thing is that I can’t see how we could get arrested. If we brought alcohol onto the sidewalk we’d be violating the city code and could be charged with a misdemeanor violation of Chapter 6, section 6-3. In Minnesota, you can’t be arrested for a misdemeanor without some exigent circumstance, so we’d receive a ticket and a court date instead. (I’m not about to assault a cop to prove a point.) I would not be willing to do that, because if the business owner knowingly let me take alcohol outside they would be in big trouble and their liquor licenses could very well be suspended. It’s not worth it to me to bring alcohol from home, and that seems to defeat the purpose….

    If we were just to set up tables and chairs and sit outside an establishment, and bring food out of that establishment to consume, we’ve got a different scenario. I don’t see how the restaurant owner could be held liable for that, and their liquor licenses shouldn’t be at risk. Again, it’s only a misdemeanor, so the maximum punishment under the law would be a fine of $300 and/or 90 days in jail. But we wouldn’t get arrested. We would only be ticketed. So, it’s not worth it to me…

    In response to Anthony’s comment…maybe we could get David L. to distribute some Chamber Dollars to our fine councilpersons, along with the friendly suggestion to make outside dining happen in Northfield.

    June 20, 2008
  6. David Ludescher said:

    Britt: The Chamber would certainly advocate for its members (including the NDDC).

    June 20, 2008
  7. I like the bribery thing best, at least it’s something you can count on.

    June 20, 2008
  8. Nick Benson said:

    Perhaps several of you could hold a protest on the grounds of the hospital? Hold up signs with proposed names, do enough damage for a criminal trespassing charge, keep the tab under $40,000, and everyone wins.

    June 20, 2008
  9. john george said:

    I would really rather just do take-out and eat it at the park than be tied up with this other commitment.

    June 20, 2008
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    Britt, after a coffeehouse consultation with one of Northfield’s men in blue, it appears your legal analysis is correct. Plus, he thought we’d probably have to imbibe in the street, not just the sidewalk, to get a ticket.

    I wouldn’t want to jeopardize the liquor license of a local proprietor so I thought it would be best if we brought our own alcohol (purchased at the Muni, of course).

    So might it be worth it to get a misdemeanor ticket for $300 and/or 90 days in jail? Hmmm. Maybe if just one of us imbibed and the rest helped pay for it!

    Best location IMHO: on Water St., straddling the boundary between Froggy Bottoms and your law firm, HVMD, where the colleague of yours who’s running for mayor also happens to be the proprietor of Froggy’s. Brilliant, no?

    June 23, 2008

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