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Arrested Forest Park campaigner defends actions

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A political activist, who was arrested on charges of trespassing at the polls, says he wasn't doing anything wrong.

David Reed, a volunteer for Avery Wilson's campaign for a Forest Park city council seat, says he was bringing a poll worker lunch, when he was asked to leave the premises. He refused, he says, because he had a right to be there.

"I was there to check on a young lady who had not eaten since that morning," says Reed, a Chicago native who has worked on more than a dozen campaigns in Clayton County. "I didn't disrupt anybody. I didn't talk to anybody. I was not electioneering."

Reed was arrested a little before 7 p.m., on Tuesday, during the run-off election between Wilson and Linda Lord to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Lord's husband, Wes. According to Forest Park Police, Reed came to the polls four times, was asked to leave, refused, and was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass.

According to police, after Reed was asked to leave for the third time, he said that he would return with the media, and would get arrested.

Forest Park Police Maj. Chris Matson said the officer who was providing security at the election place tried to avoid making the arrest, but Reed was insistent in forcing the issue.

"We gave him every chance," Matson said. "He came back with the intention of being arrested, and we arrested him."

Reed says that he was making a point about his rights.

"I don't intend to disrespect the process, but I did, indeed, disrespect and disregard the order not to come on the premises, because that was incorrect," he says. "If I had acquiesced to that, then I am submitting to them in something that was not correct."

Wilson said he was at the polling place at the time of the arrest, agreed that Reed had done nothing wrong, and had a right to be where he was.

According to state campaign rules, no one can campaign within 150 feet of a polling place. According to state law, a person is trespassing if he or she doesn't leave when asked.

It is not clear, though, how the trespassing rule applies to constitutionally protected activities, like voting. Reed, however, wasn't voting at the time of his arrest. Reed says he is not a resident of Clayton County or Forest Park, and was not eligible to vote in the election.

Reed says he is considering taking legal action to fight the arrest, but will put off any move until after the next election, when Lord and Wilson will again compete for the seat.

"This thing is not going to be won in the court of public opinion," he says. "It's going to be won at the polls on Nov. 6."

Reed claims there is a "good old boy kind of network," in the city, which opposes his candidate and which motivated city officials to single him out.

City Manager John Parker said the police officer and the election supervisor were doing their jobs and upholding the integrity of the election.

Election Supervisor Sandra Norwood said she reported Reed to the officer on duty, because Reed's behavior was "unethical and not allowed."

In at least one conversation, Norwood said, Reed was arguing with the poll workers about absentee ballots. Some absentee ballots were rejected because they were improperly signed or mailed. One hundred eighty-four votes were counted in the election.

Lord won by six votes, and will fill her late husband's seat for the remainder of his term. She faces re-election in two and a half weeks.