Earlier this week, I tried to find any group organizing for the Hilldale Black Friday midnight sale. Although I couldn't find any official efforts, after a little emailing in the neighborhood, I found some other folks that were already planning on going down Thanksgiving night around 11 PM. I was glad to know I wouldn't be alone. It's more fun with others, and it's safer too. You never know what you are going to run into out there.
At first we were on the curb across from Target, just south of the University Ave entrance to Hilldale. When the line to go in the door grew to where it reached the University Ave sidewalk, decided to go over there to walk up and down the line. I knew that the sidewalk on University Ave was public, so it was OK to stand there.
Unfortunately, one of the Target employees was not so knowledgeable about the public right of way, and she came over to tell me that the sidewalk was private property, and I couldn't be there with the petitions.
Hmmm... I hate to act like a know-it-all, or pull out my past service on the City Council, but I was definitely not moving. I tried to be polite and point out that the sidewalk was legally part of the "street," and so was public. The employee kept saying, "This isn't the street, it's the sidewalk. We paid for this sidewalk." Yes, Target was required to pay to have the sidewalk installed as part of the development, but they do not own it. It's City property.
Ms Target Employee finally told me that if I didn't leave, she would call the police. I responded that she was free to do so, but I could guarantee that the police would agree with me about my right to be there. In order to not waste the time of the police, I did point out to her that I had been on the Council when the Target development was approved, and I was quite aware of the public right of way. She still thought I was on private property.
Of course, when the police arrived, they said I was completely within my rights to be on the sidewalk, and as long as I was not harassing the customers, I and the rest of the volunteers could stay. We had been very polite, and as a matter of fact, had mostly not even talked to people unless they approached us first.
I think the employee was completely shocked that, not only was I not intimidated by her, but I was willing to risk dealing with the police. Of course, since I knew I was within my rights, I wasn't bothered at all.
So not only did I collect a bunch of signatures, but I struck a blow for our civil liberties.
So to all you recall volunteers: Know where the public/private line is, and don't let anyone tell you you can't be on the public sidewalk. (We actually moved to the terrace so we wouldn't block people walking or standing in line, but that was being polite, not a matter of our rights.)
And if you go to Hilldale, Frey St, which runs on the other side of the Target parking lot from University Ave, and the bus stop across from Sundance Theater are also public right of way.