Sunday, March 29, 2009
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Suvo aka Greg Travous
On Monday April 13 at 2pm in the Byron Simpson United States Courthouse, Courtroom 10 B, U.S.District Judge Marcia Morales Howard will hear the plaintiff's (artists) Motion For Preliminary Injunction against the City of St. Augustine's code 22-6
prohibiting visual artists from selling their works on public property.
There has been much acrimony and misconceptions over this issue that I thought that it would be best to use my personal experience as a way of illustration. Follow me if you will. I will not go into great detail on this blog since this weblog was never created as a personal exercise but as a way for the general public to follow a dedicated group of artists who believe that the creators of our U.S. Constitution meant for us to be able to express ourselves without government interference other than limited and reasonable time place and manner restrictions.
St. Augustine is among a group of cities and towns that lends itself well to the display and sale of art, particularly since the Plaza De La Constitution could be described as this nation's oldest park. Public parks are recognized as the quintessential forum for public speech. The courts have already determined that "sale" does not diminish free speech rights. Check your news vendors.
So into town there comes an aging boomer type guy in an old beater Cadillac with Illinois plates and a 100 pound Rottweiler. He claims to be an artist who is travelling the South exhibiting and selling his paintings and prints as the law allows on public property. This doesn't sit well with Patrolman Walter Wachowski who says to the artist, "I wanna know your story !", running a fruitless computer check on this reprobate three times in one week After deciding that to do business in Florida you must have a Florida Driver's license and plates, he says, "If you are going in that car I am going to arrest you , impound your car and your dog".
This was the beginning of the latest artist battle with the City of St. Augustine
This was 40 months ago. The artist has been arrested, jailed or cited a dozen times and is currently out on bond with close to 2000 dollars in fines hanging over him. This case will determine whether the artist is returned to jail for the crime of "offering art for sale".
Local taxpayers will be footing a bill for close to 100,000 dollars after undercover police are paid overtime, court time and outside legal counsel . See what you started Patrolman Wachowski.*
* Patrolman Walter Wachowski says to everyone who'll listen that he's ready to retire, travel and "shoot stuff" with his many guns.