Wednesday, August 12, 2015

First Amendment Hero Bill Rosenstock on Protecting Free Speech Rights in Pier Park (and all of our County parks): St. Augustine Record letter.

Letter: Free speech can't be sequestered
Posted: August 11, 2015 - 11:16pm St. Augustine Record
By Bill Rosenstock, St. Augustine Beach
Free speech can’t be sequestered
Editor: I applaud the county commission for its unanimous vote Aug. 4 for the removal of the “Free speech area” sign at Pier Park. Free speech is practiced by all American citizens every day without us ever thinking about it.
We talk, text and email our friends and relatives about local state and federal issues and other matters. We depend on our military, Sheriff’s Office, police and our elected government officials to stand guard and protect and defend our constitutional free speech rights. On Aug. 4 our county commissioners voted unanimously to remove all free speech box signs from county parks.
A World War II veteran said, “Freedom is not won with just one battle, it is something we have to fight for every day.” The St. Augustine Beach Civic Association (SABCA) — of which I am a longtime member — unfortunately has a long-standing policy of not allowing political free speech at or near its events.
The Pier Park “free speech sign” empowered SABCA volunteers to say, “You can’t do that here,” and then direct citizens to the free speech box zone in front of the public toilets. If citizens refused, SABCA volunteers called the police in a vain effort to suppress First Amendment rights of free speech.
The police always declined their invitations to suppress these rights in a public park. Angry SABCA officers tore up one sign and slammed one sign-spinner over an issue of more public parking at Pope Road.
Police reports and a YouTube video prove these misguided attempts at censorship.
Ten of us spoke at the Aug. 4 commission meeting. The evidence was true. The shameful signs are gone.
Our law enforcement and county commissioners did a good job of standing guard to protect our free speech rights.
But it’s up to all of us, as American citizens, to also protect our right to free speech.

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