Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Connecticut mayor orders Libertarian activists removed from public park following solicitation for signatures – April 2018

Meriden, CT

On April 28, 2018, the mayor of a Connecticut town ordered members of the local Libertarian Party and a Libertarian candidate to leave a public park. The group had gathered to collect signatures in order to get their candidate on the statewide ballot for an upcoming election.

Key Players

Kevin Scarpati is the mayor of Meriden, CT, a town with a population of about 61,000 in central Connecticut. He is registered as an unaffiliated voter, although he was formerly registered as a Republican before running for the town’s mayoral office in 2017.

Dan Reale is the Connecticut state chair of the Libertarian Party. He filed a Connecticut Superior Court lawsuit in May 2018 on behalf of the political volunteers in the park on that day in April, naming Kevin Scarpati as the defendant.

The Libertarian Party is an American political movement, citing “minimum government” and “maximum freedom” as two of its most valued tenets. Volunteers for the Connecticut Libertarian Party were in the park on the day in question, stumping on behalf of Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Rod Hanscomb.

Further Details

On April 28, 2018, the annual Meriden Daffodil Festival was held in Hubbard Park, in Meriden, CT. Many community organizations and members attend the event every year. At the 2018 festival, volunteers for Rod Hanscomb for Governor — among them Reale — stood near the entrance, collecting signatures on petitions to add Hanscomb to the ballot. Scarpati happened to walk past the volunteers and, soon after, a police officer asked the them to leave.

Following this incident, Reale filed a lawsuit in Connecticut Superior Court. He claimed his First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly were violated because Scarpati had the volunteers removed from the park out of political motivations. Reale noted that both the local Republican and Democrat parties had a presence at the same festival, but did not face similar actions. He also said he had called the Meriden police department after leaving the park in order to determine what might happen if the volunteers were to return and continue their efforts. “The desk sergeant informed him he would be arrested for ‘first degree’ criminal trespass,” the lawsuit alleged.


Case settled out of court

On September 28, 2018, the city of Meriden settled the case with Dan Reale and the Libertarian Party for $37,000. The Libertarian Party, which had joined the case as an additional plaintiff, received $32,000, and $5,000 went to Dan Reale as a private individual.

External References

‘Go After The First Amendment, You’ll Pay The Price’ — $37K To Settle Lawsuit Against Meriden Mayor, Hartford Courant

Legal Mess Endures Months After Meriden Mayor Had Cops Oust Libertarians From Park, Hartford Courant

Libertarian party candidate files suit over alleged incident at Meriden’s Daffodil Festival, Record-Journal

Meriden Office of the Mayor webpage

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded to Tracker: October 15, 2018