Bill Gilbert, the Chairman of the Rhode Island Moderate Party and 2018 candidate for governor, sued the Rhode Island DMV and Deputy Administrator Clare Sedlock for signs posted that he claims violates his first amendment rights.
Gilbert, along with his daughter and grandchildren, spent hours at the DMV registering his daughter’s car, purchased in New York.
When his grandchildren got restless, he started entertaining them by taking videos.
“The person behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘You're not allowed to record in here,’” Gilbert told 990WBOB. “I’m like, what are you talking about?”
The signs at the DMV read: “No filming, recording or photography. For the privacy of our customers, use of video recording, audio recording and still photography are strictly prohibited. Thank you for your cooperation.”
“I believe that they did this on purpose to intimidate the people that won't fight back,” Gilbert said.
The suit could be a tool used by the Moderate Party to get more state wide attention.
After all, with local and national politics dominated by Democrats and Republicans, there’s little oxygen left for third parties — especially one that has only held public office once since it was founded in 2007. When brought up in 990WBOB’s interview, Gilbert took it in stride.
“If the news helps people get involved, of course I'd like that,” Gilbert said. “It's a tool.”
And, to be fair, it’s worked.
The Providence Journal published an article last week about Gilbert’s suit, and WPRI covered it in a broadcast, as well as having Gilbert on a talk show this Monday. It’s more news coverage than what the Moderate Party typically receives, and it’s helping reach voters that ordinarily wouldn’t have any exposure to the party.
Gilbert filed the suit in Washington County Superior Court and paid a fee of $180.75. The suit is a declaratory judgement, requiring an “actual controversy” — a dispute between two parties that can be settled in court — to occur.
“What if everybody in line had their camera running the whole time?” Gilbert said. “What if every time that people walked in there they showed that line? I would like to be able to show them and record my interactions with my government so I can have those other deeper conversations, like how do we fix the DMV.”
Since the filing of the suit, the signs at the DMV have been removed. Gilbert will continue the litigation, however.
“By taking the signs down, nobody's admitted I have the right to do anything,” Gilbert said. “Nobody's even saying they won’t put them up in the future. It's kind of like, ‘hey, I'm not beating my wife anymore. Why are you arresting me?’”
Gilbert ran for Rhode Island governor as the Moderate Party candidate in 2018, receiving 2.7 percent of the vote.
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