Suppressed by the County!
A county Family Services supervisor tries to suppress our newsletter by removing it from every car in the parking lot of a DFS field office. We capture his futile efforts in a series of photographs.July 31, 2006, 3 pm: So here we are (again!), minding our own business, putting printed flyers on the windshields of cars outside a county Family Services office at 522 East Lake Mead Parkway in Henderson, Nevada. This is about three hours after we were Suppressed by the State! at a different DFS office. In Henderson, Family Services, along with several other government agencies, occupies most of one building in a private office/retail complex. Also in the complex are a private financial company, the Southern Nevada Health District office and a Taco Bell restaurant.
The office itself has mirrored windows and we can't see inside. We do not attempt to enter the office.
The flyer we are distributing is our Opinion #7: COMMISSIONERS REPLACED BY ROBOT CLONES.
After we have put about thirty flyers under the windshield wipers of cars closest to the DFS office, a gentleman approaches us to say that we can't put flyers on cars here because "this is private property." We ask him if he represents the landlord. No, he says he works for DFS. We ask him his name, and he identifies himself as Ron Oldham. (We learn later that he is a supervisor.)
We tell Mr. Oldham, politely, that we believe we have a reasonable right to put flyers on cars. He disagrees, but doesn't give us any legal grounds, apart from "private property." We point out that this is a county office, which makes this "public property." (There is even a sign on the window that says, "Public Building.") Mr. Oldham tells us that he intends to remove the flyer from all of the cars in the parking lot. (He gives no indication, however, that he has read the flyer or knows what it is about or that he is operating on anyone else's orders.)
At this point, he walks into the parking lot and proceeds to remove the flyers from the cars. We follow him around, taking pictures of his efforts. (It is our policy not to photograph government employees unless they are discourteous or take actions against us, like he is doing.) It is a hot day (100+ degrees) and taking flyers off cars is as time-consuming as putting them on; nonetheless, Mr. Oldham perseveres, until every flyer is removed from every car we put them on.
During this operation, the interaction between us is generally cordial and not nearly as heated as our earlier interaction with the state. No names are called on either side, and no middle fingers are raised. It is a gentlemanly thing: We have our mission of putting flyers on cars, while he apparently has his mission of removing them. We take a series of about 100 photos of him performing his duty—a selection of which is shown below.
About one-third of the cars with flyers are official Clark County vehicles that are clearly labelled as such. We have no real objection to a county employee removing the flyers from county vehicles, although it seems silly. However, the other two-thirds of the cars are private vehicles, which could be owned by DFS employees, DFS clients, or employees or clients of adjoining businesses. He even removes the flyer that we had inadvertently placed on our own car (a rental). CERTAINLY WE HAVE A RIGHT TO PLACE A FLYER ON OUR OWN CAR, and Mr. Oldham is suppressing that right.
We are outraged (in a bemused way) by Mr. Oldham's interference in our free speech rights. What right does he have to remove our flyer from a vehicle he doesn't own on property he doesn't own? This is a shared parking lot, and he acknowledged that he does not represent the landlord. What it looks like is an anal-retentive supervisor trying desperately to prevent his employees from reading something.
Following the completion of his operation, Mr. Oldham goes back into the DFS office. We then proceed to repeat our distribution, placing our flyer on the windshields of all the cars that Oldham has just removed them from—plus a few more.
During our re-papering operation, a lady comes out of the DFS office and tells us to remove the flyer. "Oh brother!" we say to ourselves, "Here we go again." It turns out she only wants us to remove the flyer FROM HER CAR. We ask her which car it is, and she points to it, and we graciously go over and remove the flyer. We then turn our camera toward her, and she quickly retreats back into the office.
This becomes a comical siege of sorts. After completing our re-papering, we strut back and forth in the parking lot, camera at the ready, in case anyone tries take our flyers down again. There is no response from the DFS office. Sieges make us hungry, so we go to Taco Bell and get a 7-Layer Burrito. Then we come back to the DFS office and strut some more. We march in front of the mirrored windows of the office whilst singing (in our head) "Yo-HEE-ho!" like the guards in Wizard of Oz. Then we mysteriously vanish from view for a while, later to reappear just as dramatically. The aim is to totally confound the enemy so they don't know when it is safe to take down the flyers.
We see no further attempts to violate our free speech, so about an hour and a half after our arrival, we discreetly depart.
We later learn that the lady is another DFS supervisor. So now we know what DFS supervisors do with their time (at least in the South Unit): They suppress information and protect turf. We admire Mr. Oldham's fortitude in removing every one of our flyers and respect the lady's sensitivity to the besmirching of her windshield, but we can't help but wonder if they might have other duties to perform.
We have heard that South "has problems" but we don't know what they are. Could they be personality-related?
At issue is personal judgment and the ability to see things in perspective. These are SUPERVISORS who are supposed to be telling caseworkers what to do. Is a supervisor who spends his time removing flyers from cars someone we really trust to look after the needs of our children?
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