On Friday, Town of Campbell Police Chief Tim Kelemen pleaded "no contest" to "a charge that he signed a local tea party leader up on gay dating, pornography and federal health care websites," as reported at the Seattle Times. The town board placed Kelemen on paid leave, and he was charged with "one misdemeanor count of unlawful use of a computerized communication system."
In an exclusive interview with the Examiner, James Neighbors, founder of the patriot group "Overpasses for America," said, "[T]he fact he was only charged with a misdemeanor is a travesty of justice."
It all started in August, when Chadwick Hawkins, the town Clerk/Treasurer called 911 to report "rioters" on the overpass (click on video to listen).
In October, Police Chief Kelemen "persuaded" the local town board in the Town of Campbell, Wisconsin to impose an ordinance banning the display of "sign, flags, banners, pennants, streamers, balloons or any other similar item" within 100 feet of a pedestrian overpass and walkway in October for "safety" purposes.
At the time, James Neighbors said that the ordinance was "blatantly unconstitutional." His group, along with the local Tea Party, vowed to fight the ordinance which was directed at their groups. Members of the patriot groups went to town board meetings in the effort to make a case against the unlawful rule, which violated their First Amendment rights.
In December, in frigid temperatures, the groups defied the ordinance, and four of the protesters were given citations, as reported at Tavern Keepers. One man, pictured, was given a citation after bringing a homemade cross onto the overpass while his son watched in disbelief.
An Overpasses group leader for the La Crosse, WI area, as well as one of the four state leaders, Jerry Miller, told the Examiner that this ordinance must be challenged, saying, "...if we allow small local government to get away with something like this, then it can spread to other towns/cities like a cancer."
After numerous requests to rescind the ordinance, the Tea Party finally filed a federal lawsuit, which is still pending. The Thomas More Society is representing them. Interestingly, Neighbors said that the town "fired the law firm that wrote the ordinance for them, and hired a different law firm that is now defending them in the lawsuit."
Greg Luce of the La Crosse Tea Party (and the man Police Chief Tim Kelemen targeted online), told the Examiner, "We have to fight for our rights as free men if we want to keep them. There are always going to be authoritarians in government that would like to silence and control us."
James Neighbors continued to question the Town of Campbell for leaving Kelemen in his position as a police chief. He said, "[T]he fact that the Town Council has left him in his position only shows their utter disdain for justice and their lust for control of their citizens by strong arm bully tactics." He continued,
"Every last Town Council member that supports the Chief of Police in Campbell needs to be voted out of office."
Kelemen is evidently not a fan of the Tea Party or the Overpasses for America groups. If it was not for the dedication of leaders like Greg Luce, it is likely that this story would never have seen the light of day.