Is a small town city official playing politics with the First Amendment



Is a small town city official playing politics with the First Amendment

by Frankie S. Abbruzzino, The Uncensored Report

 

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of _871 religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting …

 

I am surprised that the Mayor would even respond in this manner to this individual (See the Mayor’s response to an email below).

The First Amendment protects free speech from infringement by the city government.  Passing out flyers and assembling is generally permissible in most public areas.  Public areas consist of public parks, public streets and sidewalks, and outside public buildings. Yes folks, these areas are known as public forums, which are areas that can be used for the communication of any and all views on political and social issues.

I am not stating that the city can not place restrictions on the use of a public space.  If the city felt that safety and order were a concern, the could place restrictions governing the use of public property for assembly and protest. However, I am not so sure that would fly, when it comes to walking around and handing out flyers in public.

So, is the Mayor playing politics?  Should he be going the extra mile to put an end to individuals promoting Trump on public property?  Would he take the same aggressive action with a Hillary supporter?

What if I told you that a similar issue came before the Mayor involving a Bernie supporter and the Mayors response was essentially no response, would you be concerned that politics are in play?

I am going to avoid stating the party that the Mayor is registered with, to avoid any non-partisan election issues.  One has to wonder why he would take steps to stifle the First Amendment, if the individuals were out there promoting Hillary, versus Trump?  Let me answer that for you, no he would not, based upon the last issue that came before the council that was very similar to this latest issue.

Earlier this year an individual was out at the Farmers Market handing out flyers for Bernie Sanders.  An officer told him that it was illegal and made him leave.  The individual wrote council and the City Attorney stated that the individual was well within his rights and that the officer acted inappropriately.  I don’t recall the Mayor or any other council making a huge stink about this issue at the time.  Perhaps because the individual was out there promoting a Democrat candidate?  Who knows……………….

Now we have an individual that is upset about some Trump supporters being at the Farmers Market and the Mayor feels it is necessary to that ordinances should prohibit this from taking place.  I know he was at the same City Council meeting, which I was watching online, when the City Attorney made it clear that this type of action was permissible…….

The bottom line is that this is public property.  Any individual can walk around and promote their candidate for office.  I only wish the Mayor would have gone to such great lengths to take action, when the similar incident involved a Bernie supporter earlier this year.

No matter if you are for or against Trump, you should be alarmed at this stasi like response by the Mayor.  Today it may be the Mayor striving to shut down a person’s free speech that he disagrees with, tomorrow it could be another Mayor pushing to shut down your freedom of speech on your candidate of choice.

Thoughts?

 

** Update **

On Oct 4, 2016, at 8:38 AM, Dave Persson – Persson & Cohen <dpersson@swflgovlaw.com> wrote:

 

Good Morning Everyone,
The law is that the City may regulate the “time, place and manner” for the exercise of political free speech so long as the regulation achieves a “significant” governmental interest.  As outlined in Ms Wilson’s email, this appears to have been handled in a perfectly reasonable and legally acceptable manner.
Best regards,
Dave Persson
 
From: Linda Wilson [mailto:linda.venicefarmersmkt@gmail.com] 
Sent: Sunday, October 02, 2016 11:00 AM
To: John Holic
Cc: Sheila V Kaufer; City Council; Edward Lavallee; Dave Persson – Persson & Cohen; Tom Mattmuller; Judy Gamel; Heather Taylor; terrihealey@michaelsaunders.com; Roger Clark
Subject: Re: Venice Farmer’s Market – Saturday, 10/1/16
 
Good morning Mayor Holic, Hal and Sheila Kaufer,  Ed LaVallee, City Council, Chief Tom Mattmuller, Atty. Persson, Judy Gamble, Heather Taylor, 
First I would like to thank Mr.and Mrs. Kaufer for attending the Venice Farmer’s Market.  I hope your experience, other than the one you have brought to our attention, was positive and enjoyable. 
 
The Venice Farmer’s Market (VFM)  is located on a public street that is closed from 6 a.m. to closing time (1:30 p.m or 2:30 p.m. depending on the season) with the issuance of a Permit from the City of Venice.  The VFM takes this as positive sign of approval and will never will underestimate the value of this opportunity to be located on W. Tampa Ave.   We also realize that with this permit we must realize that we are located on a public right of way and respectfully acknowledge all visitors to the area.  Each week we allow free booth space to non-profit organizations to be a part of the VFM venue.  Non-profits are asked to stay in their assigned area, display the products and distribute literature, and not to roam the market to distract the customers from viewing/interacting with all VFM vendors.
 
I would like to explain what I have done for the last several years when election time approaches.
 
Most people are very passionate about what they are campaigning about.  That is a good thing but if you are on the other side of their beliefs that can be risky situation.  When I have seen campaign solicitors going through the VFM I politely introduce myself,  explain that this a public right of way and they are welcome, however, in cases of signing people up if they are not a voter, I ask them to step out of the market in a more private and less congested area for them to ask questions and obtain personal information.  I also ask that they move to an area where they may be between booths or to the sidewalk where people enter the market when asking the questions.  The solicitors are usually in groups could cover most areas of entrance and most comply.  
 
In a case of your candidate of choice, again I politely introduce myself, explain that they are welcome and I ask that the solicitors not stand directly in front of a vendors booth prohibiting the vendor to conduct business.  A vendor is there to sell 4 or 5 hours for only 48 times a year.  Most VFM vendors rely on farmers markets for their total income each year.. I then explain that they may stand between vendors booths or on the sidewalks.    
 
W. Tampa Ave. is approximately 30′ wide and when you have 10′ x 10′ tents that leaves a walking path of about 10′ for customers.  A ten foot wide walking path can become very crowded when two or more people are blocking a walking path. Most booth operators setup to allow customers to step into their booths.  
 
I have copied Terri Healey, a VFM customer, who was present at the market on Sept. 24th who can explain what she witnessed when I have dealt with solicitors.  Before the Sept. 24th date I did not know or been introduced to Terri.
 
I thank you for taking the time to read this and look forward to Atty. Persson’s input on this inquiry.
 
Sincerely,
<image001.jpg>
 
  
 
 
Linda Wilson
Manager
Venice Farmer’s Market
941-234-6321

——————————————————————-

Venice Farmer’s Market – Saturday, 10/1/16JH

John Holic

Yesterday, 10:24 PM

Sheila

City Council <CityCouncil@Venicegov.com>;

Edward Lavallee <ELavallee@Venicegov.com>;

dpersson@swflgovlaw.com;

+4 more

Dear Mr. And Mrs. Kxxxxx,

 

On behalf of Venice City Council, thank you for your comments. I am copying this reply to the City Manager, City Attorney and Chief of Police. I believe our Ordinances prohibit setting up of any signs on public right of ways and also prohibit obstructing free flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic. I am asking that staff inform us and the Farmer’s Market of any other restrictions that may apply.

Sincerely,

John Holic

Mayor, City of Venice

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_____________________________
From: Sheila

Sent: Saturday, October 1, 2016 11:39 AM
Subject: Venice Farmer’s Market – Saturday, 10/1/16
To: City Council <citycouncil@venicegov.com>

My husband and I attended the Venice Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, 10/1/16. We were appalled to see 4 different people outright campaigning for Trump/Pence in front of vendors trying to conduct business. The Farmer’s Market Manager approached one of the Trump/Pence supporters to inform them that they need not be in front of the vendors. Unfortunately, as we were leaving the market, we encountered one of them standing directly in the middle of the concourse speaking to people and handing out literature. These Trump/Pence supporters were carrying campaign posters and had Trump/Pence on their shirts. In our opinion, It would have been okay if they had just been encouraging voter registration.
We spoke to the Farmer’s Market Manager and we told her that we would be contacting you. She said that she would talk to them again.
We would like to know what the City of Venice’s policy is for active campaigning at the Venice Farmer’s Market. We are sure that you would not provide them with a booth.
We are concerned residents of Venice.

Sincerely,
Hal and Sheila

Venice, Florida

Paid for by Frankie S. Abbruzzino for Mayor, City of Venice



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