The arrest Saturday of Workers World Party vice presidential candidate Gloria La Riva had nothing to do with politics, discrimination or free speech, according to a Salt Lake police official.
Lt. Carroll Mays said police officers took Riva into custody after she refused to leave the parking lot of the Smith's Food & Drug Center at 876 E. 800 South at the store manager's request.In a statement faxed to news organizations on Sunday, the party's national presidential candidate, Monica Moorehead, called the arrest an "outrageous violation of First Amendment rights and blatant discrimination against the only presidential ticket comprised of two women of color."
Moorehead complained that police handcuffed and jailed her running mate "on a very minor, citable offense." La Riva said police wouldn't have interfered if President Clinton or Bob Dole had been campaigning at the same spot.
The store manager had complained to police that La Riva, 42, and three other candidates were impeding traffic. At the request of the police officers, three of the four candidates moved out to the side-walk.
La Riva, who at the time was being interviewed by a local television station, refused to go, so the officers placed her under arrest, Mays said.
In their faxed statement, party officials said neither the candidates nor the television crew had interfered with customer access to the store.
"The people we were meeting outside Smith's were very interested in the ideas of our campaign, ideas like the right of everyone to a job, housing, health care, education, the need for every worker to have a union, the importance of affirmative action, rights for immigrants, lesbian and gay rights," La Riva said.
The police action was not a response to what La Riva was distributing or espousing, Mays said, it was simply a case of private property rights. La Riva, a California resident, was booked on suspicion of trespassing, a misdemeanor, and released about six hours later.
Moorehead and La Riva are on the ballot in 15 states, including Utah. Their party is a socialist party founded in 1959. It has chapters in 25 cities.