Publix Is Private

Michael Mayo writes this morning about the arrest and jailing of Pompano Beach activist Joyce Tarnow at a Publix supermarket. Her crime: Trying to gather signatures for a petition to give voters direct power over development.

I've met Tarnow and sat down in her living room. She's a unique American character who ran an abortion clinic (which seems to put her on the left) and against immigration (which seems to put her on the right). Whether you agree with her or not, it's hard not to admire her hard work and conviction.

So should she have been arrested?

Publix is private property. Managers told her to leave. She didn't. Deputies told her to leave. She didn't. Trespassing it is.

That doesn't mean that Publix isn't being a dick. I bet there were no complaints about Tarnow by customers. And in the sprawlburbs, the stores are about as close to public squares as there is, so this is definitely a First Amendment issue. But the private chain has always been conservative and has given tons of money to the Republican Party (much more than it has to the Democrats). The only way to change it, outside the Supreme Court (likely), is for customers to demand it. And the truth is that most of them don't want to be bothered by petitioners anyway.

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