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Chamber issues statement on CPOA lawsuit

Claremont Chamber of Commerce released a statement Tuesday afternoon declaring that the chamber “did not ‘chill’ [the Claremont Police Officer’s Association’s] First Amendment Rights.”
The Claremont Police Officer’s Association filed a complaint against the city of Claremont and the Claremont Chamber of Commerce in late December claiming its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated at this year’s Village Venture. The chamber says it is “surprised and concerned” regarding the claim.
The chamber states that space within the section of the annual arts and crafts fair where the police table would have been allowed had been sold out since the end of August. Police did not approach the chamber about their table until 2 weeks prior to the mid-October event.
While the chamber says it told police they were allowed to distribute flyers next to the Police Command Post at no charge, the CPOA was not authorized to move its table to the arts and crafts section, where they eventually moved without permission. Though they were asked to close down their table, the chamber says it permitted the officers to continue walking around the event passing out their flyers.
The chamber’s release states in full:
“The Claremont Chamber of Commerce has had a long and productive relationship with the Claremont Police Department. We are surprised and concerned that the Claremont Police Officers’ Association (CPOA) has named the Chamber in a lawsuit and is alleging that the Chamber violated CPOA’s First Amendment rights at the 30th annual Village Venture held on October 22, 2011.
The facts are:
Village Venture is an Arts and Crafts Faire where participating vendors pay for booth space. Vendor applications are accepted beginning in June and vendors are notified in August of their booth assignment. All booth space in the Business and Organization block, where the Claremont Police Officer’s Association would have been placed, was sold out by the end of August.
CPOA approached the Chamber in October, shortly before the event, and requested permission to hand out fliers. In an effort to accommodate CPOA at this late date, the Chamber representative advised CPOA they could distribute fliers at the Police Command Post. CPOA was also advised there was no charge.
According to the Summons, Chief Cooper advised CPOA that they could not distribute their fliers at the Command Post. CPOA then moved a table into the Arts and Crafts vendor area without the knowledge of or permission from the Chamber. In accordance with Village Venture policies and in fairness to the 474 paid vendors, the Chamber asked CPOA to remove the table. CPOA asked if they could walk through the crowds and distribute their fliers. The Chamber representative responded that distribution of the fliers is permissible.
The Chamber did not ‘chill’ CPOA’s First Amendment rights. The CPOA was simply asked to follow the same rules as everyone else and to remove a table from an unauthorized area. In the past, police officers have assisted Chamber representatives when it became necessary to remove a vendor who had not timely applied for, paid or received a vendor permit.”
The city has yet to release a statement regarding the lawsuit. A closed session of the city council was held last night to address litigation.
The city and chamber must notify the CPOA on how they wish to proceed with the case by Wednesday, January 18, according to the summons.

—Beth Hartnett

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