Fair protester, scuffle caught on video

Kyle Hopkins
YouTube framegrab

Ten minutes of mayhem Thursday at the Alaska State Fair -- caught on video and posted on YouTube -- jump-started an Internet debate on free speech this week and landed a familiar roadside activist in jail.

Palmer police arrested Sidney Hill, 52, for assault, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief, police commander Thomas Remaley said.

Fair marketing director Dean Phipps said Hill is known for waving signs near the Carrs grocery store in Palmer and apparently carried a large banner into the nearby fair Thursday. It read "LaRouche says Impeach Obama Now."

The fair has an unwritten policy against people campaigning in common areas, Phipps said. The YouTube clip shows Hill clashing loudly with security guards before being forced to the ground and eventually arrested.

Phipps said Hill became aggressive and belligerent, trying to incite the crowd when security guards approached him. Some fairgoers said Hill didn't appear to be causing problems.

"He was just walking around with a sign," said Wendy Lewis of Anchorage.

The photographer, identified on YouTube as Brian Stanfill, described what he saw in an e-mail: "(Hill) was peacefully displaying his message without yelling or heckling other fair patrons until the fair security personnel approached him and grabbed his sign and then him."

Phipps defended the use of force by security guards seen in the clip.

"The initial attempt was to educate him and let him know what the rules were, and he became belligerent. They felt that they were assaulted ... and then responded to that."

The fair is on private property, owned by the non-profit Alaska State Fair Inc. If people want to deliver a political message -- on abortion or Pebble Mine, for example -- they're expected to rent a booth and follow vendor guidelines, Phipps said.

Security told fair officials that Hill had been swinging the sign around, so that people, including kids, had to dodge it, Phipps said.

Remaley, the police commander, said Hill also possessed a handgun, which is not allowed on the fairgrounds.

The video begins with Hill yelling "This is public access!" and that he has free speech and ends with him walking away in handcuffs with police.

In between, Hill can be seen tangling with security, telling another man he's "a worthless hippie" and calling on the crowd for help. Security hold Hill to the ground as he yells. An off-duty state trooper steps in to keep the crowd back.

Hill's banner referenced Lyndon LaRouche, a political activist who has run for U.S. president.

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