Bruce Guthrie outside the Frances Anderson Center, a public park owned by the city of Edmonds. Guthrie was arrested by arrested by Edmonds Police during the Edmonds Arts Festival for soliciting signatures on a petition to get Libertarian presidential candidate Chase Oliver on Washington’s ballot this year. (Photo provided by Bruce Guthrie)

Bruce Guthrie outside the Frances Anderson Center, a public park owned by the city of Edmonds. Guthrie was arrested by arrested by Edmonds Police during the Edmonds Arts Festival for soliciting signatures on a petition to get Libertarian presidential candidate Chase Oliver on Washington’s ballot this year. (Photo provided by Bruce Guthrie)

Edmonds state House candidate arrested collecting petition signatures

Bruce Guthrie believes the city violated his First Amendment rights by arresting him at an event in a public park, making him a “political prisoner.”

EDMONDS — A candidate for state House of Representatives was arrested last week on charges of criminal trespassing at the Edmonds Arts Festival after trying to get signatures for a petition.

Bruce Guthrie, 61, sees it as a violation of his civil rights.

Edmonds police arrested Guthrie while he was seeking signatures on a petition to get Libertarian presidential candidate Chase Oliver on Washington’s ballot this year.

Guthrie, a semi-retired substitute teacher, will appear on August’s primary ballot. The Edmonds Libertarian will challenge 10-year incumbent Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, a Democrat from Mukilteo.

Over two days, he gathered about 90 signatures for the statewide Libertarian Party during the Edmonds Arts Festival at the Frances Anderson Center, a city-owned park.

Though it was public property, event organizers asked Guthrie a few times to leave, before the arrest. He said the event manager claimed they had the right to ask him to leave, since the Edmonds Arts Festival had rented out the public park.

Guthrie refused.

“This is a public event on government-owned property, and I don’t believe they have the right to exclude petitioners there,” Guthrie said. “They don’t have the power to violate those rights just because someone else paid the money.”

Shane Pocius, operations manager for the festival, did not respond to a request for comment.

Eventually, four police officers asked him to leave the park and conduct his business on the sidewalk, instead.

After he refused to leave again, the officers arrested him.

Guthrie was booked into the Snohomish County Jail shortly after 2 p.m. last Friday. He was released hours later, after his wife posted the $500 bail.

While in jail, Guthrie said he was strip-searched and spent several hours in custody.

“They had me in a jail cell for four hours alone, and then another two hours with some rather scary other gentlemen,” he said.

Guthrie believes the festival and city violated his First Amendment rights, since he was still on public city property.

A spokesperson from Edmonds Police Department did not immediately have answers to a Daily Herald reporter’s questions.

“When I was sitting there for those six hours in that jail cell in Everett, I thought to myself, I am a political prisoner,” he said.

It’s Guthrie’s first second running for state House against Ortiz-Self. Last time he took third place, as a Libertarian candidate.

Ortiz-Self did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In an Edmonds Municipal Court hearing Monday, Guthrie pleaded not guilty to the criminal trespassing charge. Still, he hopes the case will be dismissed.

Misdemeanors like second-degree criminal trespass carry a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“I can afford $1,000,” he said, “but any fine, any penalty for me, would be a travesty of justice.”

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623;; Twitter: @jenelleclar.

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