A Los Angeles judge has granted a preliminary injunction against a political action committee associated with political activist and economist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. that has been soliciting donations in front of grocery stores in Southern California.
LaRouche has compared President Obama's proposed health care reforms to those of Adolf Hitler. In July, The Kroger Co., which owns the Ralphs and Food 4 Less chains, filed suit against the LaRouche Political Action Committee, which is based in Leesburg, Va.
According to the complaint, store rules prohibit individuals from selling commercial literature or soliciting donations on its property and require that they remain at least 20 feet away from an entrance. Activities are prohibited between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays.
On Aug. 21, a judge granted an order for preliminary injunction against the LaRouche PAC.
Timothy Ryan, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Morrison & Foerster, who represents the Kroger Co., said that the injunction, although preliminary, means that representatives of the LaRouche PAC must remain off the company's property.
"There's a type of shopping center that takes on a nature of a public space -- big, huge regional mall centers. In those cases, they would have the right to come on the premises," Ryan said.
However, the judge agreed that the Ralphs and Food 4 Less stores at issue, which are in smaller shopping centers, do not have the same public access, he said.
An attorney for the LaRouche PAC, Roger Jon Diamond, a solo practitioner in Santa Monica, Calif., did not return a call for comment.
According to the Kroger Co.'s injunctive complaint, during the months of June and July, several individuals associated with the LaRouche PAC set up tables fewer than 20 feet from store entrances in order to distribute brochures and solicit donations. On most occasions, store officials, believing that the representatives were breaking store rules, called the police.
The incidents occurred on June 6, June 29, June 30, July 1 and July 7 at Ralphs stores in the Southern California cities of San Pedro, Granada Hills, La Crescenta, Brea and Manhattan Beach and at a Food-4-Less store in Hawthorne. In most cases, the LaRouche PAC representatives posted signs depicting Obama with a mustache in the style of Adolf Hitler or handed out literature decrying the "Obama Nazi Healthplan."
Several customers complained about the posters, the complaint says.
In court documents, the LaRouche PAC argued that the law involving political action at shopping centers in California is unclear.
"The evidence will show that Ralphs only became concerned about the political activity when the message of the Defendant involved the current health care proposal by the President," the LaRouche PAC said in court documents opposing the injunction. "Up until then there appeared to be no problem with public access."