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Freedom's just another word



Police arrest a man for speaking too long at a City Council meeting. A man is handcuffed for handing out leaflets in a city park. A congressional candidate is told to remove himself from the sidewalk in front of the Arena, lest his signs pose a danger to the public. The City Beautiful has long conflated silence with consensus, and the police do their part to enforce silence. The policy has never been effectively challenged, but last week Hal Noyes won a $25,000 out-of-court settlement from Orlando to compensate for his 1995 arrest in Lake Eola Park. And this week City Attorney Scott Gabrielson will begin a review of the policies governing free speech on various city properties. The review comes at the impetus of Doug Head, the Orange County Democratic Party chairman and one of several people police told to move last Nov. 1 outside the O-rena as the Magic pregame show began inside. Head, Al Krulick and Krulick's family had just carried a "Krulick for Congress" banner onto the sidewalk when a motorcycle cop told the party they couldn't stand there because the basketball team owned the area that night. The Democrats were at first directed to an unlit patch of grass, but were allowed to stay on the sidewalk after Head protested. The city owns the arena but policy there was set by the security office and building managers. The City Council has never voted on it, nor has it voted on the policy governing leafleting in the parks nor, incredibly, on the policy pertaining to City Hall. "There is a policy at City Hall which I'm sure has not been approved by City Council," says Gabrielson. "I've asked that we gather the policies and review them and see if they are coordinated." Gabrielson says he thinks they're probably pretty similar, since all such rules would have been approved by a lawyer in the city attorney's office. Hal Noyes thinks the policy ought to be pretty obvious. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says the government can't restrict the dissemination of ideas. It's one of those basic "democracy" things. "That was the reason I was so surprised by this," he says. "I'd had cops try to intimidate me before, but always if I just quoted the Constitution at them they backed off." Adding irony to his case, Noyes was arrested in Lake Eola Park while passing out leaflets detailing the Libertarian Party's policy on crime during a march to support the "Crime Line" tip line. He was handcuffed, brought to the downtown substation, handcuffed again and brought to central booking. It was six hours before his wife bailed him out on $500 surety. Noyes' suit was settled May 1, a few months after he filed in federal court. Noyes says he took the $25,000 after weighing the risk he might lose in court, and thinks the award will help deter the police from making similar arrests in the future. The officer who arrested him goes before the civilian review board this week. So far he has only been verbally reprimanded. Steve Mason, Noyes' lawyer, says another case he is handling involves a man arrested for distributing a leaflet in the City Hall rotunda. The man, who goes by the name Colorado Spring Brook Field, is appealing the trespass charge on First Amendment grounds. "Orlando City Hall has a written policy that prohibits leafleting in City Hall," Mason says. "The state capitol, by contrast, expressly allows it." Would-be political agitators merely have to register and be peaceful. Attorney Gabe Kaimowitz is suing Orlando many times over. In October 1995 he was stating some of his claims to the City Council when a police officer removed him from the podium. He came back into the council chambers and sat down, but was handcuffed and held outside the building. He is suing over that incident. In February 1997 Kaimowitz was again removed from the chambers after speaking beyond his allotted five minutes. He asked Mayor Glenda Hood about the policy in a deposition, and established that the five-minute rule, combined with the "flexibility" that the mayor has to bend it, equals a capricious policy. Under former Mayor Bill Frederick, Kaimowitz says, anyone could speak for five minutes on any item, and the time could accrue. Under Hood, anyone can speak on any subject, but only for a total of five minutes. "She changed the policy," he says. Not so, says Joe Mittiga, Hood's spokesman. "It's been five minutes as long as I can remember, and I've been here since 1983," he says. The policy was written in 1981. But Gabrielson acknowledges the general capriciousness of the policy, at least where Kaimowitz is concerned. "There is so much history with him," Gabrielson says, "that anything with him you almost have to put in a separate category."

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